Assistant Kanawha Prosecutor Jennifer Gordon was appointed this week to assist the special prosecutors assigned to handle cases involving charges of domestic violence because of a conflict that erupted after the county’s prosecutor was arrested.
The conflict created by the misdemeanor charges of domestic battery and violating a domestic violence protective order Kanawha Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants faces requires a team of special prosecutors, a circuit judge ruled earlier this year.
In April, Judge Duke Bloom appointed former assistant Kanawha prosecutor Don Morris as chief special prosecutor and three of Plants’ assistants to handle all of the county’s cases involving child abuse and neglect, violent crimes against children by parents or guardians and criminal violations of protective orders.
Gordon joins Rocky Holmes, Adam Petry and Amy Bird and will no longer report to Plants. She said her office was immediately relocated from Plants’ office on Monday when Bloom filed his order in the Kanawha Circuit Clerk’s office.
“Before the conflict, of course, I worked on several child abuse and child sex abuse cases and I’ve always worked closely with the children’s advocacy center. I really believe it will be a smooth transition,” Gordon told the Gazette.
Late last month, two days after County Commissioner Dave Hardy said Plants should resign, and commissioners discussed filing a petition to have him removed from office, Plants offered a solution to Morris’ expense. Morris is being paid $200 an hour — an amount county commissioners set.
Assistant prosecutor Dan Holstein filed a motion asking Bloom to trim Morris’ hours by allowing another assistant to be moved from his office to assist Morris at no extra cost.
Bloom scolded Holstein for “meddling in a matter you have no standing to participate in,” but asked Morris if he could benefit from adding another assistant. Morris said he could use the help and told Bloom he would investigate which assistant in Plants’ office should be moved.
Gordon has worked as an assistant Kanawha prosecutor eight years and has been assigned to Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib’s courtroom for five.
Gordon said assistants Matt Smith and Eric Cantrell would take over her caseload.
Last week, commissioners voted to take $50,000 from a drug forfeiture account Plants has to help pay Morris.
Kanawha County officials are also paying $125 an hour to special prosecutor Sid Bell to prosecute Plants on the two misdemeanor charges. An agreement had been reached over those charges that would have essentially put them on hold for a year — but the deal is apparently illegal, because it calls for Plants to enter a pre-trial diversion program that isn’t allowed for people accused of domestic violence crimes.
A hearing is set for June 24 to discuss Bell’s motion to amend that deal.
Reach Kate White at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1723.