|toolbar powered by Conduit|
Forum is moving to new host!
When Tony Tatano's resignation from APA was in the paper, we immediately thought
that Tatano was finally throwing his hat into the ring for Prosecuting Attorney, despite his private agreement with Walter Weiford to never challange him as the top law enforcement icon of Pocahontas Co.
Little did we know that Weiford was going to be replaced by a local daughter 'does good' named Donna Meadows-Price. Handily
she puts Weiford away in the May primary.
Pocahontas County was getting its change after all.
But what about Tatano? It had all come out in the wash long before all the signs and personal appearances were underway for that all important political primary.
Tatano got himself in a bit of a hassle over funds he had 'borrowed' from a client's account to save his home from a foreclosure.
We were trying to figure out if Tatano had gotten into the primary instead of the problem with the foreclosure, would Donna Meadows-Price been the top winner of the primary fest? It sure would have been interesting. She might not have made it if Tony Tatano was running also.
We thought back to older days when Walter Weiford had not always been Prosecutor. A lawyer named Eugene Simmons ran one year and booted Weiford out of the Courthouse.
Simmons and Weiford might have become the see-saw twins for the top law spot in the county, except for one very big problem.
Seems that Simmons got himself in a tight spot also dealing with the account of a client. Simmons found himself out of the game, having been disciplined by State Disciplinary Council for some down time.
When Tatano got into trouble we were a bit concerned. Did Tatano have a little help getting into his monetary mess? Was there a factor that had Tatano sitting on the hot seat with a bigger push than what might have been otherwise? Was it in any way similar to a lack of fiduciary honor that put Simmons down for the count?
It is our opinion that if Tony Tatano had indeed been in that primary race for the top law dog, he would have easily beat out Walter Weiford and Meadows-Price for Prosecutor of Pocahontas County. It would have been lights out for the 'extreme machine' not getting their way so that it could be 'business as usual', contrary to what our new Prosecutor had promised.
We were certain a thread with ideology as
such would create a buzz. However, we will continue forward to unearth the true
circumstances surrounding Tony Tatano's legal problems while we hover over recent
inequities by current Prosecutor Meadows-Price, while we evaluate what seems to be the business-as-usual, an extention of activity from the office of Walt Weiford.
I enjoyed your comments. Unfortunately, Tatano has a little hurdle to get over before 2012; he doesn't have a law license. It seems that the state took it away rather permanently!
The person Donna has to watch out for is J.L. Clifton. He will be rooting after her job!
Does JL act like he knows what he's doing?
Has this previous dirty-doer gone through such a complete change that he could honor such a position? I will have to check him out.
You know darn well somebody set Tony up, otherwise he would have had his situation handled more delicately. Weiford wanted him out. No way Price wasn't purposely placed! Admit that, big boy. Donna was politically planted and there isn't anything you can do about it.
Even Walt was accessible to the public. Miss Priss is deliberately keeping her distance because she knows she can go down at a moment's notice. Everyone is expendable.
My Lord I HOPE NOT!! or J.L. either. We good us some new blood in office for a change!!
Blood has nothing to do with it!
I believe that it should all come down to FAIRNESS.
What's good for Johnnie fairplay is good for let's just say the dispatcher's daughter.
We all wanted some "New Blood" and yea that's what we got but was it any better than the "Old Blood" that had been there? Is it another that want's to make a big name for himself? Is it just a power trip for all of them when they get that gun and badge in their hands?
Is there really an fairness in this county?
No there is no fairness. Only the Pocahontas County Laws. I thought everyone knew that.
There is no law against collecting pop bottles.
I think she is hiding because she knows that we know that she isn't qualified to be an attorney!
I am preparing a challenge to her standing as prosecuting attorney!
why bother normie your crusades dont have no merit thats why you fix nothin dont try runnin for nothin. i seen half the court house haven a good laff
The early bird gets the worm. Aren't you a nightcrawler; its almost daylight--back to your hole!
Please don't forget that we are challenging Donna's credentials as a lawyer. We think she cheated to get her law degree. So far, she has demonstrated much knowledge of the law.
I would bet that Tony Tanano will have his law license restored in time for the next primary election scheduled for early 2012.
Forget the jam he got himself into that led the WVBA to discipline Tony nearly 2 years ago.
His oversight is peanuts when compared to the crooks in authority in Pocahontas County that are STILL in office and get re-elected everytime.
Tony got sh*t because he was in the way. The extreme machine of this county wanted rid of Tatano so they could slide Meadows-Price into sickly Walt Weiford's job that he wasn't capable of doing anymore.
Do you want this county to continue to be controlled by CHRONIES? That's what you've got. Tony got knocked off the crony list a LONG time ago.
Pair Tatano's election with that of a NEW SHERIFF IN DOSHIA WEBB. Get rid of the conflicts of interests.
Tatano-Webb 2012. Tatano for Prosecutor and Ms. Doshia Webb for Pocahontas County Sheriff. Can the cronies. Promote a bright, fair, politically unencumbered combination that can't be beat!
Tony Tatano for Prosecuting Attorney!
Doshia Webb for Pocahontas Co. Sheriff!
THE YEAR IS 2012! TIME TO TAKE THE GARBAGE TO THE GREEN BOXES. Dump current Sheriff David Jonese and Prosecuting Attorney Donna Meadows-Price. You didn't
get what you thought you would last time.
FIX IT NOW, FIX IT THIS TIME, FIX IT FOR GOOD!
.......and we also need papa alkire in as magistrate to continue the three ring circus!!!
ol tony and doshia have their own collusion and conflicts of interest that still need to be looked into.
recall from tatano's deposition to the wv bar, that he secured a personal loan of cash and a lien on his harley from doshia (a magistrate sworn to uphold the law) to "undo and cover" his crimes of stealing from his minor age clients in order to meet the mortgage payments on his soon to be forclosed upon house.
also recall that when further questioned, tatano stated under oath that this lien was never filed within the confines of the courthouse, where it would have been available to the eyes of the public. instead, it was another sweetheart backroom deal done outside the courthouse.
these two also had their own little legal morass when doshia hired tony to represent her on a legal matter. this, in and of itself, represents a conflict of interest and the hundreds- if not thousands of cases- should have never been heard with these two in tandem.
but then again, that's why we live in the loco poco forest. justice always prevails, as long as it goes to the highest bidder of your buddies.
Ok, Mr. Poco Loco forest: I believe we've aired these same issues last summer. First, we should start with an accurate timeline when you want to protest goings-on between Tatano and Webb.
Doshia Webb was abused as an employee of DNR and hired Tony to correct the problem. At the time of this favorite issue, I believe neither one worked in a capacity that can be concluded as a conflict of interest. No big deal here.
When Doshia Webb was a magistrate, she was a darn good magistrate. What a shame she had to give it up only to be ignored as a worthy opponent against Dave Walton. Nevermind the facts about him. You should have made those issues public fodder because Dave came very close to becoming our Sheriff, thanks to those who just, plain and simple, didn't want a woman in the position of Pocahontas County Sheriff. She is the best candidate for 2012.
When Tatano was an Assistant Prosecutor and spent many days in Doshia's courtroom, where was this conflict of interest, to which you allude, and why wasn't it brought up as a dire issue by any of the defense attorneys? Or you?
I will debate you, Mr.Poco Loco any day of the week, with accurate facts and timelines present, not merely your lightweight suppositions as to the relationship between Webb and Tatano.
Let us not forget the shame perpetrated upon the citizens for all the years Walter Weiford was power broker and designer of profuse unlawful conditions, many which still remain to this day. Let us not forget who was the architect that shaped all the goings-on, for which Doshia Webb and Tony Tatano cannot be held liable when they were only small participants in a large conglomerate of filth.
Where is your soapbox NOW? How about you and I make a date, or at least, plan on a tenative thread specially devoted to these same issues?
The public needs to realize what is needed in 2012, for the offices of Prosecuting Attorney and Sheriff. Debate what Doshia Webb and Tony Tatano could give to the public in these capacities with THEIR plans and THEIR decisions, not some lame, backroom dictator who did nothing but control the sleaze and corruption. You could also advise us who could fill these positions better than Tony and Doshia.
There's plenty of time to come to the proper conclusions because our "fresh meat" (PA Meadows-Price and David Jonese) conveniently turned foul and fast. No second term for either or we are screwed.
LET THE DEBATE BEGIN,
DOSHIA WEBB WAS THE WORST MAGISTRATE EVER:
I tried to defend myself twice before her and here are just a few of her shortcomings:
1) As a former DNR officer she should have recused herself from my case.
2) She refused to dismiss the case despite it being impossible for me to have committed the crime as charged.
3) She refused to recuse herself when she and Tony still had this lawyer/client relationship
4) She allowed Tony to continue as prosecutor even when his license was suspended
5) She refused to tape record or allow me to tape record my first bench trial.
6) She began my bench trial by telling me that she knew I was guilty
7) She had lunch with all the DNR witnesses against me
8) When she had to make a ruling she deferred to Tony
9) She refused to acknowledge my evidence
10) She refused to allow me to fully question the witnesses telling me to just move on to the next topic.
11) She refused to allow me to have a jury trial when the State amended the charge.
12) She â€œtestifiedâ€ herself in court, yet could not back up her statements.
13) She told me that she would find me in contempt of court if I told the court that she had given me animals to care for.
14) During the second jury trial she did not tape record the pre trial hearing as required. This turned out to be critical.
15) Seated but a few feet from me and Tony she claims she did not see me give Tony the documents he requested.
16) She allowed Tony to question his witnesses about totally irrelevant subjects despite my objections
17) When Tony motioned for a mistrial and I concurred she refused to accept this.
18) She allowed Tony to blatantly lie in court
19) She again refused to allow me to introduce my evidence for the jury to see
20) She refused, AS REQUIRED, to allow me to vouch the record with my evidence
21) When Tony and I got into a loud shouting session over his lying she should have on her own declared it a mistrial.
22) When I put myself on the stand she refused to allow me to testify as to why I was not guilty.
23) At my second sentencing hearing she lost her cool and stated she wished she could have sentenced me much more harshly. This again showed her bias and her disregard for my rights.
IF YOU ELECT DOSHIA TO ANY PUBLIC OFFICE YOU DO SO AT THE EXPENSE OF ALL OF OUR RIGHTS.
NOW ALL OF THIS BEING SAID DOSHIA IN A BACKWARD MANNER DID ME A FAVOR BECAUSE I GOT TO ARGUE MY CASE BEFORE OUR HIGHEST REAL COURTS, NOT HER KANGAROO COURT.
fine, lets request norm to repost the deposition and statements of tony to the wv bar and take a little looksie.
i suppose its highly likely that he was once again lying under oath while defending the constitution of west virginny and the mothership united states as one of them thar 'occifers of the court', but i think we need to take his statements at phil collins face value;
you and i do seem to agree on the egregious stench that ever permeates the wheels of "justice" in the loco poco forest. however, that and absolute incompetence extends to all of these players.
i have no recommendations on who should fill these roles. i dont believe that any individual or handful of individuals is gonna clean up this cesspool. unfortunately, the entire system appears to be stymied in a culture of corruption and slick backroom deals.
i did, and do, applaud doshia on her acknowledgement and astute recognition of the intense drug trafficking that transpires on ol cheat mountain (i.e. snowshoe) with the blessings and greased hands of its corrupt power brokers and preferred bizzness partners;
(maybe we should give her a whirl in 2012 but in the meantime i wonder what's keeping the current brokers of "justice" from implementing these fine ideas to eradicate the scourge and SOURCE of the drugs???)
these are great ideas for dealing with these issues- however, all the local dungheads in charge "fear the beast" of the most powerful business structure and economic engine in the county.
an entire housecleaning is in order, compliments of your tax dollars and mine, via the federal agencies of the FBI, DEA, & ATF- exceptionally similar to this event in this west virginny county (same ol situation where only the names and faces change with the exchange of cash);
Corruption Inquiry Brings Hope to 'Bloody Mingo'
By B. DRUMMOND AYRES Jr., Special to the New York Times
Published: March 25, 1988
WILLIAMSON, W.Va., March 24â€” If there are more corrupt places in the United States than Williamson and surrounding Mingo County, the embarrassed and stunned residents of this achingly poor coal community will gladly surrender their notoriety.
Over the last two years more than 50 of their neighbors who held government jobs - county executives, police officers, fire and poverty program officials, even school board members -have been convicted and jailed for criminal activities from theft of public money to bribery, arson, narcotics peddling, jury tampering, purjury and tax evasion.
Federal and state investigators and prosecutors say they have never seen corruption quite so pervasive. And they say this in the full knowledge that Mingo County is not unfamiliar with trouble.
The violent struggles between Mingo's poor, angry miners and its hard-nosed coal companies are the stuff of films, such as ''Matewan,'' and has led some people to label the county ''Bloody Mingo.'' A History of Trouble
Still, investigators and prosecutors have reserved a special descriptive niche for the county's current troubles. ''I don't think there is any other place as bad,'' said Joseph F. Savage Jr., an assistant United States Attorney from Huntington who has been one of the leading prosecutors in the case.
''Like a lot of counties that have to live with the poverty and other problems caused by the coal-field culture, Mingo, especially, has known plenty of trouble through the years.'' Mr. Savage added. ''But corruption like this takes it all a step further.''
The investigators have broken up a narcotics ring that, with police collusion, sold drugs from an empty house where customers lined up out front, some carrying children in their arms. Once, an undercover agent said, a sign went up on the side of the house that read: ''Out of pot. Back in 15 minutes.''
The investigators have halted an arson scheme involving some firefighters in which, in a single year, there were 100 residential and business fires in a town inhabited by only 700 people. $100,000 for Sheriff's Job The investigators also uncovered a scheme in which a former sheriff agreed to let someone else take his job in return for a $100,000 payment. And they exposed a scheme in which law-enforcement officers bought narcotics on the illegal market, then put them on display, boasting of a ''dope bust.'' How did things go so wrong? Those who have been implicated offer few explanations. ''I don't know what to think, and I'm afraid I'll make things worse for myself if I say anything at all,'' said Johnie Owens, the chief political power in the county until he was convicted of filing a false income tax return, trying to buy favorable treatment for a man accused of murder, accepting an illegal campaign contribution and, as sheriff, stepping down in return for the $100,000 payment. He is scheduled to be sentenced in a few weeks.
But other residents of Mingo are more forthcoming.
''I guess all of us who have lived around here for any time knew all along that somebody else always held the best cards when it came to running and getting things,'' said Mary Adams, who works with her husband, Robert, in a heating and cooling business. ''You just never felt there was any way to do anything about it, not until the arrests started.''
But now that the house-cleaning has begun, Mrs. Adams thinks she can help. She is running for a job on the school board, on her own, something that was almost impossible to do back in the old days, when those who held the cards approved a slate of candidates. And her husband is seeking a seat on the county commission. #70 Candidates on the Ballot In all, there will be more than 70 candidates on the ballot in November for the various jobs now open, about three times the usual number of names. The just-budding trees of Mingo are plastered with scores of campaign posters, most crudely but enthusiastically painted and hand-lettered, the true signs of amateurs.
Most of Mingo's citizenry seem to agree that the main reason for the county's troubles is the ancient nemesis of Appalachia: isolation and coal.
Mingo County and its 40,000 residents are not only isolated, in part because of poor roads, but also are dependent on an economy that is based on a single industry, coal. Two-thirds of Mingo County is owned by energy companies.
There was a time when coal company script was the coin of the realm in Mingo County, and the company store laid claim to at least as many souls as the little white church down in the valley. Unemployment and Welfare
Union power broke that hold, but mechainization then loosed the grip of the unions, leaving the county in recent years with at least a third of its men out of work and about a third of its households on some kind of welfare. In the meantime, the companies did all they could to retain power and influence by allying themselves with various election slates.
No official from any coal company has been implicated in the Mingo County investigation thus far, but investigators say they have begun to look at the possibility that at least one company may have made an illegal political contribution.
The investigators say the corruption in Mingo might have gone unimpeded for many more years had not state and Federal laws provided them with long-awaited excuses to jump in where they felt local investigators feared to tread or were too compromised to tread.
The Federal authorities used a fairly new Congressional mandate that makes narcotics dealing a Federal offense. The state authorities moved in when there were complaints of voting irregularities.
In the end, voting fraud turned out to be one of the few areas where the investigators had little success.
Narcotics dealing was a relatively new development in Mingo County, but not voting irregularities.
When Senator John D. Rockefeller 4th was West Virginia's Secretary of State, he once said, ''Mingo is the place where if you should happen to win, you'd feel you ought to demand a recount.''
photo of house in Mingo County, W. Va. suspected of being used as base for selling narcotics; map of W. Va. highlighting Mingo County
replace the words "coal" with "tourism" and, unfortunately, our purty little county is lookin' itself in the mirror twenty five years on down the line....
November 14, 1988
Vol. 30 No. 20
Almost Heaven? This Corrupt Corner of West Virginia Was More Like the Other Place
By Gene Stone
For generations, the laws of the land got no respect in Mingo County, W.Va. In the 1880s, this rugged corner of Appalachian coal country, framed by mountains and steeped in blood feuds, was riven by the infamous rivalry between the Hatfields and the McCoys. Through the early 1900s, school board elections were settled with bullets and confrontations between mine workers and mine owners often turned violentâ€”which earned the county the nickname Bloody Mingo.
Coal is still king in southern West Virginia, but unemployment is its too-constant consort. Mingo County is so economically blighted, says a local mayor, "that this is where President Kennedy invented poverty." And though the mine owners no longer pay wages in scrip for the company store, much of Mingo continues to operate on the near-feudal model of a company town, where a few men and women control every aspect of local life.
When the coal industry fell on hard times in Mingo County in the mid-'70s, the mantle of power was picked up by members of the Preece clan. Until recently, Wilburn T. "Wig" Preece and his wife, Mary Virginia, known as Cooney, lived in Kermit, a small town near the Kentucky border. Married in 1946, they are 62 years old and have raised 13 children, most of whom have acquired such nicknames as Bull, Powder, Ball, Slick and Red Ed. Assisted by this extended family, Wig and Cooney ran Mingo County as their personal fiefdom for more than two decades until last year, when eight Preeces and assorted in-laws and confederates went to jail on charges including drug dealing, jury tampering and obstruction of justice. The massive investigation that put them there is still unfolding, and it has revealed a web of corruption so pervasive that Assistant U.S. Attorney for the southern district of West Virginia Joseph F. Savage Jr. says, "I never saw any place that was as bad as this."
Linda Gail Preece Sartin, 35, is the oldest unindicted Preece. She lives with her husband, Riley, and their three kids in a modern brick home full of brass chandeliers and thick wall-to-wall carpeting. Pictures of Wig and Cooney as young adults hang on the wall. Linda, a pretty blond who runs a beauty parlor and exercise salon across the road from her house, is a Christian who always disapproved of her family's activities. Wig and Cooney and the others used to chide her for her religion. Now they depend on herâ€”Linda has taken in two of her sister Brenda's children while Brenda and her common-law husband, Carey Lee Hatfield, serve prison terms.
"My parents were not kingpins," says Linda, despite evidence to the contrary. "They were small-town drug dealers. Mom never dealt cocaine, for instance. She knew it was bad for you. If honest people had been running the county, we wouldn't have to have done [what we did]." In fact, Wig Preece was one of the county's chief powerbrokersâ€”though people say it was Cooney who ruled the family. (Once, long ago, when she suspected Wig of cheating on her, Cooney demonstrated that she was not to be trifled with by shooting her husband in the hand.) As a tavern owner in the early '70s, Wig developed a reputation for getting out the vote with five dollars here or a pint of rotgut there. Many local officeholders were beholden to Preeceâ€”among them Larry Hamrick, who, as former president of the school board and executive director of the Economic Opportunity Commission, controlled 2,400 jobs in a county that has fewer than 9,000 available for a population of 38,000. "The perception," says one local authority, "was that if you didn't cooperate with Wig, you'd get no social security, no job, no nothing."
Something of a Renaissance man, Wig also served as chief of the volunteer fire department during a period when Kermit was a hotbed of arson. In a single year, this small town of 705 reported 100 business and residential fires, generating millions of dollars in insurance claims. Wig knew which fires to put out and which to let blaze. "He was an excellent fire chief," says a neighbor, "as long as the house didn't need to burn."
But the Preeces didn't truly dominate the local economy until the late '70s, when the arrest of Tomahawk Preece (so named after being born in the backseat of a taxi in Tomahawk, Ky.)for selling marijuana opened his parents' eyes to the profitability of drugs. Within a few years, Wig and Cooney were running the biggest drug operation in southern West Virginia. Some of the drugs were sold from the family's parlor, but the major portion of the business was run from a rented trailer in the center of town. When their supply of marijuana, PCP and pills was depleted, the Preeces sometimes put a sign on the trailer, which was near both the police station and city hall: "Out of drugs, back in 15 minutes." Chief of Police Dave Ramey was married to Wig and Cooney's daughter Debbie and didn't care to make trouble for his in-laws. And if anyone in the Preeces' extended family were to be collared by a state policemanâ€”as they were 54 times over a 10-year period, for traffic violations, misdemeanors and feloniesâ€”the Preeces knew other ways to influence the justice system. When Brenda went to trial on a charge of selling PCP to an undercover police officer, she and her parents arranged for the jury foreman's daughter to get a teaching job. (Brenda was eventually acquitted, and the foreman was later convicted of conspiracy.)
State officials estimate that between 1984 and '86 the Preeces' drug operation was bringing in about $1 million a year; suddenly Kermit was saturated with Cadillacs and Corvettes, Nautilus equipment, speedboats and diamond rings. Debbie and Dave Ramey were living so well on Dave's $800-a-month police salary that locals began calling them J.R. and Sue Ellen.
Everyone knew where the money was coming from. Wally Warden, editor of the county's only paper, the Williamson Daily News, says that in a two-and-a-half-year period he printed about 350 articles exposing the Preece clan. "Nobody caredâ€”including the Preeces," he says. "There was never any hope that anything would ever change. The Preeces ran an arson ring, for God's sake. Who would be fool enough to speak up?"
When Kenny Burner, a West Virginia state policeman, was transferred to Mingo County in 1980, he says, "I felt like I'd died and gone to hell." Several times state troopers arrested various Preeces only to see them walk free. The only real threat to the family's power came from the Preeces' own missteps. Cooney had a habit of storing her marijuana in trash bags outside, and sometimes she was forgetful. Once, when the garbagemen hauled it off, one of the Preeces called Chief Ramey, who supplied a police backup when Brenda and another member of the family ran down the truck and forced the haulers to go back to Ramey's house, pick through the garbage and give back the missing pot. Another time, when her aunt appeared to be muscling in on her customers, Brenda turned the older woman in to Sergeant Burner, who arrested the aunt for a bathtub full of marijuana, among other drugs. That case is still pending. "We just had to keep doing our job and wait until something broke," Burner says of his relationship with the Preeces. "We were frustrated, but we kept trying."
Meanwhile, state officials were being inundated with complaints about the Preece clan. Finally, in 1984, a huge undercover effort involving both state and federal agencies was launched. Veteran IRS criminal investigator John Weaver was brought in to examine financial records, and FBI agent Calvin Knott organized undercover surveillance of the Preeces' drug trailer. West Virginia state trooper Marty Allen went undercover to buy drugs from the family. Sobered by the experience, and fearing reprisals, he sent his wife out of the area. "The family is low-life scum," says Allen, "and Cooney is an evil woman."
Charleston-based U.S. Attorney Mike Carey put Joe Savage, 32, in charge of the task force. Savage, a Harvard-educated Massachusetts native, had come to West Virginia so that his wife could fulfill the terms of her medical-school scholarship by serving in a doctor-deficient area. He knew little about Mingo County before arriving there in 1985. What he learned made him feel as if he had stepped through the looking glass. "Things happened backwards," says Savage. "The police chief and sheriff weren't doing the arresting, they were selling the drugs. The school board president wasn't teaching children ethics, he was bribing the jurors."
For 18 months Savage's task force gathered evidence. The Preece clan often dealt in merchandise, not cash, so their customers worked the area's shopping malls, stealing microwaves, stereos and televisions, which they traded for drugs. FBI agents were provided with various appliances so they could make the tape-recorded deals they needed for evidence. At one point, Wig Preece, increasingly greedy, told the agents he wanted a new boat for the fire department. He even specified the model and told them how to steal it.
Finally, on May 30, 1986, the task force was ready to move. At 1 p.m., a squadron of unmarked cars, backed up by a helicopter, sped single file into Kermit, then fanned out to arrest seven Preeces and 13 other individuals. "We had enough troops to wipe out the Sandinistas," says John Weaver.
The operation went smoothly. At Wig and Cooney's place, the agents found $54,010 in cash under a bed. (Another $40,000 had been set aside to buy a Mercedes that day for Stella Preece's high school graduation. But when the Preeces arrived at the dealership, Stella didn't like the color, so the family returned home with the cash.)
All 20 of the suspects rounded up in this first sweep eventually pleaded guilty, though police chief Ramey and his wife, Debbie, later changed their minds and stood trial. (They were convicted of drug conspiracy, tax evasion and 28 other felony counts. Dave was sentenced to 15 years prison; Debbie to 10.) Moreover, in 1987 the Preeces led the task force to other county officials who had condoned their activities and profited from them. Larry Hamrick was convicted of political corruption and influence peddling and sentenced to 12 years. One of Hamrick's previous claims to fame was that he had once strangled a pit bull with his bare hands. (He didn't mean to kill the dog, he later explained, but once your hands are around a pit bull's neck, you don't let go.) Now he was accused of putting those same hands around the neck of one of his employees while warning her not to testify against him.
So far, 69 people have been indictedâ€”and 69 convictedâ€”including police, politicians, school board members, bus drivers and employees of Mingo County's Head Start program and Office of Elderly Affairs. Investigators are now looking into charges of vote fraud and accusations of huge illegal cash contributions in both the 1982 and 1984 county elections. Johnie Owens, a power in the local Democratic organization, has already been convicted of tax evasion and selling the county sheriff's job to Eddie Hilbert for about $100,000. Owens is serving 14 years; Hilbert is doing seven years for misusing the sheriff's office. "This case is the best thing that could happen to West Virginia," says Savage. "We reclaimed part of America. The area will never be as bad again."
Others aren't as sure. Certainly the investigation has restored some semblance of democracy to Mingo County. Twenty-six-year-old Tim Crum, elected mayor of Kermit last May in what most observers agree was the first clean election in Mingo's history, says, "There's no way I could have won my office a few years ago."
But some insiders fear that corruption has become such a habit in Mingo County that the cleanup may just substitute one set of power brokers for another. "Look at Kermit now," says a local law enforcement official. "The Republicans are in for the first time. And they're just trying to do what the Democrats did for so long. Who can blame them?"
Linda Preece couldn't agree more. Her embittered motherâ€”who phones daily from prison, where she is serving a 16-year termâ€”insists that "my husband and I were used by the politicians." After all, Cooney notes, she and Wig had been paying off the proper authorities since 1957. Her father, Linda says, is a broken man who weeps at the end of each of her prison visits. Linda herself begins to cry after she finishes another talk with her mother. Sitting among her high-tech toning machinesâ€”"they tone your body without your having to exercise," she explainsâ€”the Preeces' matriarch pro tem maintains that her parents were just ordinary working folk looking for a way to make ends meet. "If people knew what Mingo County was truly like, they'd understand," she says, pulling herself together with a sigh. "If they ever did a movie of all this, it would just have to be a comedy."
tony screwed me big time cost me 40,000 at least.he took my money and didnt do anything he said he would,he lied plain and simple them dodged my phone calls and e mails never answering them or giving a reply to the board hes a snake i wouldnt trust him to was my car.