A hearing has been delayed on an illegal dumping charge filed by Logan County officials against one of the plaintiffs in a federal court case over mountaintop removal.James Weekley of Blair was scheduled to appear before Logan Magistrate Danny Wells today to answer a complaint filed by the county solid waste authority.But the hearing was canceled because of a death in Wells' family, and Logan prosecutor John Sims is concerned the case could be a vendetta against Weekley because of his stance against mountaintop removal."I feel that there probably is" a connection, Sims said Wednesday.
Lawyers for Weekley declined comment.Weekley is one of the named plaintiffs in a federal court case filed by the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and a group of coalfield environmentalists to try to curb mountaintop removal mining.So far, the case has resulted in a preliminary injunction that stopped Arch Coal Inc. from expanding its Dal-Tex mountaintop removal mine near Blair. Arch wants to move the mining onto a 3,100-acre permit along Pigeonroost Branch, where Weekley lives.
Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden II issued the preliminary injunction on March 3.Less than a week later, on March 9, Jack Casey of the Logan County Solid Waste Authority inspected the Pigeonroost Branch area.According to a criminal complaint filed in magistrate court, Casey found "a coal truck bed full of household garbage, containing Mr. Weekley's name and address."The complaint, signed by assistant prosecutor Dan Dahill, noted that in West Virginia "it is unlawful for any person to create, contribute to or operate an open dump."
Last week, on April 7, Sims, who is Dahill's boss, said he had not heard about the charges against Weekley. He said he would look into it.The next day, Dahill said that Sims told him he wanted to consider dropping the charges because he believed the case was filed because of Weekley's activism.On Wednesday, Sims said he talked with Dahill and with Casey and believes there may be strong evidence that Weekley is guilty.Still, Sims said he is concerned about the motives for the charge.
"It struck me as really odd that this person would be charged shortly after all this stuff [about mountaintop removal] was in the paper," Sims said. "If the County Commission, or whoever employs Mr. Casey, is just trying to get back at him, we wouldn't want to be any part of it."Logan County Administrator Paul Hardesty said the county investigated Weekley because of three telephone complaints about the alleged dumping, not because of the mountaintop removal issue."I don't know where [Sims] is going with that," Hardesty said.Hoy Murphy, spokesman for the state Division of Natural Resources, said state conservation officers were not involved in the charges against Weekley.Normally, DNR officers are involved in such cases across the state, Murphy said. To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., call 348-1702.