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Jury to resume deliberations in W.Va. hate crime trial

Woman accused of civil rights violations after allegedly trying to force black family to move

June 09, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- A jury of 10 men and two women is expected to resume deliberations today in the trial of a Falling Waters, W.Va., woman accused of civil rights violations after allegedly trying to force a black family to move from their residence.

Kendra N. Sulick, 38, of 45 Wisconsin Drive, was indicted in February 2010, on nine counts of violating the civil rights of the family of Brian Smith and Betty A. Obiri between December 2007 and April 2009.

Sulick and Bruce A. Poole, 50, whose trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 16, are accused of repeatedly harassing the family by shouting racial slurs at them, making loud noises at all hours of the night, driving recklessly near their home and threatening to harm them, according to court records.

Poole was indicted on six counts of civil rights violations and three counts of conspiracy, according to court records.

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In closing arguments on Wednesday, Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Jean Games-Neely recounted alleged instances of Sulick confronting the victims with "very hateful words" and using a chain saw, an all-terrain vehicle and her vehicle in a threatening manner.

"They have the right to exist just like she has the right to exist," Games-Neely said. "No one has the right to infringe on that and that's why we are here."

Games-Neely said Smith called the police 20 times regarding the neighbors' behavior "and you know what, the police failed him."

Games-Neely said the uneasy relationship between the victims and the defendants was not simply a dispute among neighbors and when the reported activities were compiled, Games-Neely said a pattern emerged.

Defense attorney Christopher J. Prezioso countered that the charges contained in Sulick's indictment were nothing but "racial slurs" and challenged arguments that Sulick drove her car at a high rate of speed as Smith's 6-year-old son walked along the road to get on the school bus.

"How fast can you go on that road," said Prezioso, reminding jurors of their trip to the property on Wednesday where the alleged hate crimes were committed.

Prezioso also asserted that the supposed victims actually wanted Sulick and Poole to move from their residence and put pressure on people to make that happen.

"There's nothing but doubt in this case," said Preziozo, reminding the jury of instructions that were read by presiding 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes.

If convicted, Sulick could be fined or receive up to 10 years in prison for each count, Games-Neely said after Wednesday's proceedings.

Sulick declined a plea offer, which would have allowed her to avoid incarceration, Games-Neely said.

Sulick would have been placed on probation for five years and a one-year jail sentence was to be suspended, Games-Neely said.

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