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Lawyer accuses prosecutor of trying to quiet testimony

February 23, 2001

Lawyer accuses prosecutor of trying to quiet testimony



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - The attorney for a Hedgesville man at the center of an alleged police brutality case alleged in court Friday her client was indicted on another crime to discourage her from testifying about the brutality claim before a grand jury in January.

Martinsburg attorney Laura Rose also rejected a plea offer by prosecutors in the case.

"There was retaliation by the (Berkeley County) Prosecuting Attorney's office because of the testimony they knew I wanted to give before the grand jury," Rose told Circuit Court Judge Christopher Wilkes.

Rose represents Todd Rankin, who has been charged with unlawful wounding following an altercation with Hedgesville resident Larry Schroyer on Jan. 17, 2000.

That altercation led to charges of malicious wounding against Rankin.

The charges were dismissed by Magistrate Joan Bragg in August. But Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely went to a grand jury in October and had Rankin indicted on a lesser charge of unlawful wounding, stemming from the same incident.

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Rose said in court the only reason Rankin was indicted after the original charge was dismissed is because Games-Neely knew she was trying to testify before the grand jury. She said she wanted to tell jurors Rankin was beaten by three deputy sheriffs who arrested him the night of the fight with Schroyer.

Rose appeared before the grand jury Jan. 10. Jurors indicted the deputies on five felony or misdemeanor counts related to the alleged beating.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gina Groh said there is no basis for Rose's argument.

"It's not uncommon for this office, when a case has been dismissed for lack of probable cause in Magistrate Court, if we think there is a strong case, we will direct indict" using a grand jury, Groh said. "If the facts of the case are strong for us, as they are here, it's nothing unusual to direct indict."

"They knew I was trying to get before the grand jury and they were trying to hinder me, discourage me, by indicting Todd," Rose said. "And by continuing this case, they are punishing him."

Rose said she rejected a plea offer made in court by prosecutors. The agreement was Rankin would plead guilty to unlawful wounding, but serve his sentence concurrently with time he is already serving in Eastern Regional Jail for DUI and fleeing.

"I told them my client wasn't pleading guilty to anything," Rose said.

Rose said the two sides also "upped the ante" against each other as they prepared their witness lists for the trial.

The prosecution wants to call Rose as a witness against her client, believing her testimony before the grand jury as a private citizen precludes her from claiming attorney-client privilege in the case.

Rose wants Games-Neely as a possible witness in her case defending Rankin, saying she wants to put on the stand the person she believes made the decision to retaliate against her by charging Rankin.

The next pre-trial hearing on the case will be March 9. Rose said she will ask the case be dismissed at that time because of the circumstances of Rankin's indictment.

Said Groh: "This is not malicious prosecution, as she claims. If she believes that, she has other remedies."

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