Plants Speaks Out After Tense Courting Hearing

By: WSAZ News Staff Email
By: WSAZ News Staff Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A heated court hearing took place in Kanawha County Thursday involving the prosecutor's office and personal legal issues of embattled Prosecutor Mark Plants.

Plants, who's been facing two misdemeanor charges after disciplining his son with a belt that left a bruise, has been disqualified from prosecuting cases similar to his own.

During the hearing, a judge was set to consider a motion originally filed by the prosecutor's office to appoint a second prosecutor to help with thousands of dollars being billed to the county for a special prosecutor in those cases.

Don Morris was appointed as the special prosecutor.

The county is paying Morris $200 an hour to prosecute those cases. Commissioners have expressed concerned over how much that’s costing the county.

Earlier in the week, commissioners asked the prosecutor's office to help pay it. Morris says "now, they're saying my fee is no longer excessive. They're saying it's grossly unfair. I didn't set the fee. I didn't ask for this job. The court contacted me."

Commissioner Dave Hardy has asked Plants to resign to eliminate the expense of paying two prosecutors while he deals with the legal troubles. Hardy says it's offensive to taxpayers and the money could be better spent.

Morris filed a response to Plants motion last week asking the judge to deny it. He also objected to the amended motion filed Thursday and referred to it as a personal attack. Morris said in court Thursday, "I'm not here fighting for my salary. That's not what I'm here for. I'm fighting for the integrity of the special prosecutor who's trying to do a very important job."

Plants denied that claim and for the first time in weeks he spoke out about the situation.

"We got to see where, how my, the criminal cases work out," Plants said. “If they're dismissed in a short amount of time, then it will work out for me. I have no intention of sticking around for years, costing tax payers hundred of thousands dollars. As a taxpayer, I'm appalled by that."

Kanawha County Prosecutors Office Chief of Staff, Dan Holstein, says the recommendations to bring on an assistant special prosecutor are only to help ease the county's financial burden and help Morris with the case load. "There are a lot of cases he has to handle and as a cost saving measure, we feel like if he would like another lawyer, we would like to offer another lawyer."

Plants also said he'll wait to see what the agreement is before making the decision of whether to stay or step down. He would not take questions from reporters, saying he can't discuss the case.

In the meantime, the judge said he is open to adding a second special prosecutor if Morris needs help with the cases. However, no decision was made. The judge said Plants and his staff need to stay out of the case.

"It sends a message to the public that undermines the independence and integrity of the special prosecutor and that will not be tolerated." Morris adds, "They have absolutely no standing to even be in front of this court. All I'm asking for is for them to leave the special prosecutor alone."

The judge told Morris to think about the possibility and who he would want to help him and they would meet again in a couple of days to discuss it.

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