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Man pleads guilty to running taxi company against state order

April 08, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Martinsburg man pleaded guilty Monday to a charge that he continued to operate his taxi company, despite being issued a state order to stop.

James C. Owens Sr., 43, was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to one count of violating a Public Service Commission order. Three counts of the same charge were dismissed as part of the plea bargain.

The court hearing was delayed for several minutes after Owens said he thought the maximum penalty was 30 days in jail, not one year as Assistant Prosecutor Richard Stephens said.

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Public Service Commission Officer William Carper retrieved from his car a copy of the code book, and Owens nodded in agreement after his attorney showed him paperwork that Owens signed indicating he knew the penalty was up to one year in jail.

Owens will receive credit for time he has already served in Eastern Regional Jail, where he has been since his bail was revoked on Feb. 14.

Owens operated Elite Taxi. In court paperwork, Carper indicated that state officials ordered Owens to stop running the taxi company in January because he used "physical violence, threats and intimidation, including the use of handguns, in the course of business."

However, several times after the January deadline to cease operations, officials witnessed Owens driving a taxi.

Owens is in jail because of a separate charge of involuntary manslaughter, which stems from a beating that happened in the parking lot of the Martinsburg Wal-Mart around 11 a.m. on Nov. 10, 2002.

On Dec. 3, the victim, Ernest Stevens, who was described in court records as "elderly," died. A medical examiner concluded that the cause of death could not be determined, but that Stevens suffered from health problems, including heart failure, court records show.

Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely previously said Owens was charged because the beating caused Stevens to die, even though it was most likely unintentional.

A conviction of involuntary manslaughter carries a penalty of up to one year in jail.

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