A Kanawha circuit judge held in contempt an attorney with the Kanawha Public Defender’s Office after the attorney told the judge her client had been accepted into a substance abuse treatment facility, even though he had not been accepted at the time.
Leah Macia has appealed the ruling by Judge Duke Bloom to the West Virginia Supreme Court, saying she was not intentionally trying to mislead him when she said her client had access to the treatment.
In her appeal to the state court, Macia said she was acting in good faith and truly believed her client had been accepted into a treatment program when she said as much to Bloom during a sentencing hearing.
Bloom handed down an order on Sept. 19 holding Macia in contempt, fining her $50 and referring the matter to the West Virginia State Bar Lawyer Disciplinary Board for further review.
Bloom found that Macia did not independently verify whether there was a bed available for her client at a Prestera Center facility, only relying on the word of her client’s mother before she told Bloom she was sure a bed was available.
Bloom said Macia’s misrepresentation threatened to “obstruct or interrupt” the administration of justice.
“Ms. Macia affirmatively guaranteed that placement existed for the Defendant at the Prestera Center and never even hinted that this information may have been anyone else’s but her own,” Bloom said in the order. “Even if this Court accepts as true Ms. Macia’s explanations, it is clear that she wholly failed to ensure the accuracy of this information to even a minimal degree before conveying the same to the Court.”
On July 31, 2019, Macia was representing Charles McLanahan Jr. at his sentencing hearing. McClanahan had pleaded guilty to one count of burglary earlier that month as part of a plea deal.
Macia asked Bloom to sentence McClanahan to probation so that he could get into a recovery program for substance abuse, instead of going to jail.
Macia told Bloom at the hearing that staff at a Prestera facility “had a bed” available for him to receive long-term substance abuse recovery treatment.
Bloom sentenced McClanahan to probation, per Macia’s request, but later that day an employee in the Kanawha County Probation Office learned McClanahan had not been accepted into Prestera’s program as Macia described.
Bloom called another hearing on Aug. 1, where Macia said she talked to someone named Joyce at the center. Later during the hearing, Macia said McClanahan’s mother was the person who told her McClanahan had been accepted into Prestera’s program.
During a separate hearing on the matter on Aug. 16, four Prestera employees testified that they did not recall speaking to Macia, nor did anyone named Joyce work at the center as of July 31.
In her appeal to the Supreme Court, Macia’s attorneys argue Macia attempted to rectify the situation when she learned there was no bed available for McClanahan at Prestera. They also argue Bloom didn’t allow certain evidence, including Macia’s notes and a letter from Prestera dated for July 31 and written after McClanahan’s hearing, which would have shown Macia was acting in good faith when she told Bloom there was a bed available for her client.
McClanahan remains incarcerated at Southwestern Regional Jail and has been appointed a new attorney.