Civil rights trial in W.Va. is delayed

October 31, 2000

Civil rights trial in W.Va. is delayed

By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A case of alleged civil rights violations involving a Jefferson County man hit another snag Tuesday when not enough jurors could be seated for a trial.

Out of a pool of 50 potential jurors, only 25 showed up in Jefferson County Circuit Court Tuesday morning for the trial of David Lee Bell Jr.

Six were disqualified for various reasons, leaving 19 potential jurors for Bell's trial, said Bell's attorney, David A. Camilletti.

At least 20 jurors are needed to select 12 jurors for a criminal trial, Camilletti said.

Jurors can be charged with contempt of court and fined up to $1,000 for not showing up for jury duty, Circuit Clerk Patsy Noland said.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. did not mention anything about citing the jurors who did not show up Monday, said Shayna Funkhouser, a clerk in the Circuit Clerk's office.


Bell's trial was rescheduled for Jan. 23.

Bell was indicted earlier this year on three counts of wanton endangerment involving a firearm and three counts of violation of the civil rights of another person, according to Circuit Court records.

Bell, 56, of Route 1, was indicted after three African-American men were allegedly threatened while hunting in a field near the intersection of Wiltshire Road and Leetown Pike just west of Charles Town Nov. 25, 1998, according to court records.

A man approached Clyde M. Eggleton and his two sons and told them he was the owner of the property, according to a criminal complaint filed by West Virginia State Police.

The man pointed a rifle at the three men and threatened to shoot them if they came back to the property again, the criminal complaint said.

The men also allege that the man used racial slurs when he talked to them.

Eggleton told police that he believed the land was owned by someone else.

In March, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson told Steptoe that he orginally believed that the three had permission to hunt on the land. But Thompson said he later learned they did not have permission to hunt there.

At Thompson's request, Steptoe agreed to dismiss the indictment against Bell without prejudice, which means Thompson could present the case to a grand jury again.

In April, Bell was indicted again. The only difference in the charges on the second indictment is that they did not include charges of impeding any person engaged in lawful hunting of wildlife. The original indictment against Bell included three counts of that violation, according to court records.

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