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Charge dropped against man accused of pointing gun at hunters

March 14, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A case that had been in the courts for two years and revolved around a Kearneysville, W.Va., man who was accused of threating three black hunters ended Thursday when the last charge was dismissed against the man, said his attorney, David Camilletti.

David Lee Bell Jr. was accused of pointing a rifle at Clyde M. Eggleton and his two sons Nov. 25, 1998, in a field near Leetown, W.Va., telling them he owned the land and threatening to shoot them if they returned. Bell also allegedly used a racial slur.

Eggleton told police he believed someone else owned the land.

Although a jury convicted Bell of wanton endangerment, it cleared him of three counts of violating civil rights.

But the state Supreme Court later ordered a new trial for Bell, saying the jury should have been allowed to consider a lesser offense of brandishing against Bell.

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The Supreme Court justices said it would have been impossible for Bell to have committed wanton endangerment without first committing brandishing.

Brandishing is the showing of a weapon in a menacing manner.

Bell was set to stand trial again on the wanton endangerment charge when he decided to enter an Alford plea to brandishing last year, Camilletti said.

Bell decided to enter an Alford plea to avoid the risk of being convicted on the felony charge of wanton endangerment, which carries a possible prison term of up to five years, Camilletti said.

Brandishing is a misdemeanor which carries a punishment of up to a year in jail, Camilletti said.

Under the plea agreement, Bell was to receive a suspended six-month sentence.

But the plea agreement was not accepted by Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr., Camilletti said Thursday.

Bell was scheduled to go to trial next Tuesday on the wanton endangerment charge when Eggleton stated Thursday he did not want to pursue the the case, Camilletti said.

Jefferson County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Larry Crofford moved to dismiss the wanton endangerment charge against Bell and Steptoe approved it, Camilletti said.

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