Two seek Democratic nod for Berkeley Co. prosecutor

April 27, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Democrats Larry Crofford and Thomas Stanley both are longtime attorneys squaring off for the Democratic nomination in the race for Berkeley County prosecutor, but they also have a few uncommon things in common. Such as newspapers.

Crofford formerly worked as a reporter for a newspaper in Wheeling, W.Va., while Stanley delivered a daily newspaper for five years.

Both grew up in West Virginia and graduated from West Virginia University's College of Law - Crofford in 1983 and Stanley in 1981.


The winner of the May 11 primary between Stanley and Crofford will face Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely in the Nov. 2 general election. Games-Neely is the only Republican running.

Prosecutors are elected to four-year terms. The annual salary is $83,600.

Larry Crofford

Crofford has been a prosecutor in Jefferson County for the last 14 years. He has handled just about every kind of felony case and has lost just three cases, he said.

Crofford grew up in the Wheeling area. He has been practicing law for 21 years and moved to the Eastern Panhandle 17 years ago.

Before becoming a prosecutor, Crofford had a general practice that included criminal defense work. From 1987 to 1988, he worked as a public defender in Berkeley County.

Both Crofford and Stanley said they want to make changes to the prosecutor's office.

Crofford said he wants to instill a higher degree of professionalism by forming a better relationship with the staff. That will allow them to use their talents, he said.

He also hopes to use grants to pay for more specialized training for assistant prosecutors.

It also is important to hold training seminars for police officers on a regular basis, since the law changes, he said.

If elected, Crofford said he hopes to improve the relationship between the prosecutor and the Berkeley County Commissioners while fighting for pay increases for the assistant prosecutors.

Overall, he said, voters should rely on his background.

"I have far more experience in this field, in prosecuting, than my opponent," he said. "I believe that experience does count."

Crofford, 55, and his wife, Ellen, who live in Martinsburg, have three adult daughters, a 15-year-old daughter and three grandchildren. He said he is a member of the state Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Fraternal Order of Police for Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties.

Thomas Stanley

Before obtaining his law degree, Stanley served in the U.S. Navy for seven years on submarines. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics and was working toward a master's degree when he learned he'd been accepted to WVU's law school.

He worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Charleston, W.Va., for 21/2 years, seizing drugs and property from drug dealers. One year he obtained $1.6 million, he said.

In 1998, he began working in the Berkeley County public defender's office.

Although he could not prosecute anyone he has previously defended, Stanley said measures are in place to handle such problems.

"There have been conflicts as long as there have been lawyers," he said.

Each county pays a monthly amount to the state Prosecuting Attorneys Institute. Once a conflict is realized, a request is made to the Institute that a special prosecutor be appointed to handle the case. That prosecutor's normal county of employment then would pay his or her salary, not Berkeley County taxpayers, Stanley said.

Regardless, Stanley said it will be a slim to nonexistent problem unless all 500 to 600 of his former clients are arrested at once.

Like Crofford, Stanley said he wants to work with and train police officers and the staff in the prosecutor's office.

"Changes need to be made," he said.

Honesty, experience and dedication are important, he said.

If elected, Stanley said he would try to expedite cases. A year should not pass between the time a felon appears in court for a preliminary hearing and the time he or she is indicted.

Moving cases along saves money, Stanley said.

He said he also plans to look into implementing a "juvenile referee" system.

A juvenile referee, who could be an attorney or a senior probation officer, would handle cases that deal with truancy, runaways or children who will not obey their parents.

Time and money would be saved if such cases did not have to go before a Circuit Court judge, he said.

Stanley, 57, and his wife, Chris, who live in Gerrardstown, W.Va., have two adult daughters and four grandchildren.

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