CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants’ visitation rights with his two sons have been temporarily taken away again by a family court judge because Plants decided to go to trial on two misdemeanor charges against him.
Plants faces a charge of domestic battery after striking his 11-year-old son with a belt, and he allegedly violated a domestic violence protection order that told him to stay away from his children and ex-wife, Allison.
Cabell County Family Court Judge Patricia Keller entered an order Friday, which said Plants can’t see his sons until a hearing on Thursday or after a trial.
A magistrate assigned to the case is deciding when to set trial dates for the two charges. He has already ruled separate trials would be held.
Allison Plants’ attorney filed the request to revoke the visitation rights.
A special prosecutor assigned to the case has said Plants’ sons will have to testify at their father’s trial.
Keller was assigned to hear the domestic violence petition filed by Allison Plants after Kanawha judges recused themselves from the case. In June, Keller lifted a ruling that Plants could have only supervised visits with his sons.
Plants wouldn’t comment Friday.
Earlier this month, Plants tried to back out of a deal he made with special prosecutor Sid Bell that said he would attend a batterer’s intervention program in Putnam County for 32 weeks and possibly have the charges dismissed.
Mercer County Magistrate Mike Flanigan demanded that Plants begin the program, despite his right to a trial, because the program was made a condition of Plants’ bail. Plants started the program Tuesday.
Bell has asked that Flanigan set trial dates after the 32-week program. Jim Cagle, Plants’ attorney, argues that it’s Plants’ right to have the trial as soon as possible.
One reason for Plants’ “change of heart,” Cagle said, is a petition Kanawha County commissioners filed in Circuit Court to have Plants removed from office.
The petition says Plants should be removed because he’s not doing the job he was elected to do. Plants’ office has been barred by Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom from handling many cases related to domestic violence because of conflict of interest. A conflict arose when Plants argued that what he’s charged with isn’t a crime — and that prevents him from prosecuting similar cases. A three-judge panel appointed by the Supreme Court will hear the petition Sept. 22 and 23.
Reach Kate White at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-1723, or follow @KateLWhite on Twitter.