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Gazette-Mail editorial: The art of preemptive denial

A strange tale is weaving itself together after West Virginia Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, took the unusual step of preemptively denying he knows a woman at the center of a prostitution ring investigation in Maroney’s hometown of Glen Dale.

We say preemptive because, before Maroney’s attorney wrote a letter to the Marshall County prosecutor’s office denying the senator knows Cortnie Clark — one of six people under investigation in the case — no one has said or inferred, at least publicly, that Maroney did know the woman. There was no indication he was connected to the investigation in any way.

What is known is that authorities in Pennsylvania obtained a search warrant for Maroney’s car while it was parked at the airport in Pittsburgh. Maroney was apparently in Utah at the time. During the search of his car, police seized the senator’s cell phone. Exactly why the search was performed or what police were looking for is unknown because the affidavit filed with a judge to obtain the search warrant is sealed. In any case, there was no real reason to suspect that police searching Maroney’s car in Pittsburgh had anything to do with a prostitution investigation in Marshall County.

The letter, written by Wheeling attorney Paul Harris, also contained an aside about some sort of forthcoming civil suit challenging whether West Virginia’s prostitution laws are constitutional because of their vagueness. “What on earth has that got to do with anything?” is a question no one would have asked otherwise.

Maroney told a Gazette-Mail reporter Jake Zuckerman, “There is nothing to this story.”

That may certainly be the case. Still there is this strange letter (along with video of Clark stating she does not know Maroney) that has backed the senator into this mess.

To be clear, we’re not accusing Maroney of being involved in or having committed a crime. He hasn’t been charged with anything. Perhaps this bizarre, strike first gambit will make sense once more information becomes available. For now, there’s just a whole lot of self-generated, acrid smoke hovering over the rumor of a fire.

Funerals for Sunday, August 18, 2019

Combs, Amy - 5 p.m., Bible Center Church, Charleston.

Michael, Sherry - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Morrison, Ray - 2 p.m., Morris Funeral Home, Cowen.

Smith, Robert - 3 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Stump. Arleen - 1 p.m., Roach Funeral Home, Gassaway.

Wright, Gary - 2 p.m., Preston Funeral Home, Charleston.