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Judge OKs councilman's plea deal for drugs, battery

April 05, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The criminal case against Martinsburg City Council member Frank Idoni came to a close in Berkeley County Circuit Court Monday afternoon when a judge approved a plea agreement under which Idoni pleaded guilty to one count of delivery of a controlled substance and pleaded no contest to a battery charge.

Following an earlier plan for the plea agreement, Circuit Judge David Sanders sentenced Idoni to one to 15 years in jail for one felony count of delivery of a controlled substance and up to one year in jail for the unrelated misdemeanor charge of battery.

Under a no-contest plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but is stating he will offer no defense.

Sanders directed that the sentences, which would run concurrently, be suspended and that Idoni be placed on five years probation.

Idoni, who was elected in June of last year to represent the city's Ward 5 residents, also agreed to resign from his council seat as part of the agreement.

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Idoni's attorney, Harley O. Wagner, told Sanders that Idoni would provide his letter of resignation to Wagner's law office this morning.

Personnel at Wagner's law office will have the resignation letter notarized and forward it to Martinsburg City Council members by the close of business today, Wagner said.

Wagner said he wants to have the letter notarized out of "abundance of caution."

Idoni, who was free on bond Monday, walked into court with a limp. Idoni, who told Sanders previously that he takes medication for bipolar disorder and for chronic pain resulting from a workplace injury, used a cane to walk.

Wagner said after the hearing that Idoni had just had partial knee replacement surgery.

"He's probably had 30 surgeries," Wagner said.

Idoni spoke little during the sentencing hearing.

When Sanders asked Idoni if he wanted to say anything before he handed down his sentence, Idoni replied, "No sir."

Officials have said previously that Idoni's probation term can be transferred to another state. Martinsburg attorney Kevin Mills, who also has represented Idoni, said previously that Idoni plans to move elsewhere.

Wagner said after the hearing Monday that the community and Idoni now can move forward.

"Mr. Idoni wishes to apologize for any disappointment or harm that came to our community," Wagner said.

The drug charges were filed on Jan. 21 after Idoni, on two occasions, sold a Fentanyl patch to a police informant, records allege. The drug transactions, which took place on Jan. 7 and Jan. 11, were recorded using video and audio surveillance equipment, police said.

The battery charge stemmed from an incident in October 2004 in which Idoni allegedly spit on and punched a teenager whom he felt was driving too fast through his neighborhood, court records state. Idoni sustained a black eye in the scuffle.

During the campaign, Idoni said that one of his main goals was to help clean up his neighborhood.

At a City Council meeting in November 2004, Mayor George Karos read aloud a letter of no confidence, followed by a unanimous Council vote requesting that Idoni resign. Idoni refused.

As part of the plea bargain, the state agreed not to prosecute a second count of delivery of a controlled substance that was filed against Idoni.

Idoni, who moved to Martinsburg from Texas a few years ago, told Sanders previously that he never considered himself to be hooked on drugs.

When asked to recount what led to the drug charge being filed, Idoni said a man he knew came to his house and claimed that a friend was in pain. He said he accepted $200 for a prescription Fentanyl patch.

Fentanyl patches, which are classified as Schedule II controlled substances, are used to help alleviate chronic pain.

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