An assistant Kanawha County prosecutor was appointed Tuesday to assist in the prosecution of a Logan County man accused of beating then-state Senate candidate Richard Ojeda last year.
Kanawha assistant Fred Giggenbach offered to assist Logan Prosecuting Attorney John Bennett in the case against Jonathan S. Porter, 42, of Holden. Porter is set to stand trial on a malicious assault charge in Kanawha Circuit Court on May 1.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom was appointed to serve as special judge in Porter’s case when both of Logan County’s circuit judges stepped away from the case.
Bloom on Tuesday signed an order appointing Giggenbach to assist Bennett with Porter’s case.
“Seeing no prejudice to the Defendant, this Court hereby appoints Fred Giggenbach as a Special Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Logan County solely for this case,” Bloom wrote.
Ojeda previously said he was worried he couldn’t get a fair trial in Logan County. The senator has mentioned that Porter is the nephew of former Logan County circuit clerk Alvis Porter.
Ojeda also has noted that he filed a complaint against Logan Circuit Judge Eric O’Briant’s daughter, Shayna Thompson, with the West Virginia Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which oversees lawyers in the state. Thompson, who now is an assistant prosecutor in Logan, previously worked as a lawyer for the Logan County Board of Education. Ojeda alleges that Thompson released copies of his tax documents to people campaigning against him in last year’s election. Ojeda worked at the time as a Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor for Logan County Schools. Thompson has not been involved in the case against Porter, Bennett has said.
Bloom agreed to move the trial to Charleston and out of Logan last month. The judge granted a change of venue request filed by lawyers for Porter. Jury selection was held in Logan for two days last month but, before a jury was seated, the judge granted the change of venue request.
Bloom granted a request during a hearing April 4 for Porter to change lawyers. Porter is now represented by Charleston lawyer John Mitchell Jr.
During that hearing Bloom said Porter failed a drug test and ordered him to be taken to the South Central Regional Jail. Porter is being held without bail after allegedly testing positive for methadone.
Ojeda was attacked in the days before last May’s primary election. Ojeda has said Porter hit him from behind with a pipe and brass knuckles at a campaign event, and then tried to run him over with a pickup truck. After the incident, in a significant political upset, Ojeda defeated incumbent Sen. Art Kirkendoll. Both men are Democrats from Logan County.
Porter plans to argue self-defense during the trial, according to documents his lawyers have filed in the case.