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County seeks to revoke license of driver in DUI death case

by Matt Harvey and Jim Fisher

STAFF WRITERS

CLARKSBURG -- It remained unclear Friday why a drunken driver responsible for a deadly crash still has his driver's license.

However, efforts to revoke the license were under way Friday, officials said.

Robert E. Moore II, 20, of Sardis, pleaded guilty in the autumn of 2002 to misdemeanor driving under the influence resulting in death. Moore also entered a plea at that time to the felony of leaving the scene.

Laurie Beth Watson, 16, a Liberty High School sophomore, died in the January 2002 wreck on Sardis Road near Sardis.

During a hearing on Thursday, Moore's attorney, Nancy Ulrich, produced documentation from the state Division of Motor Vehicles indicating Moore's driver's license had not been revoked. The evidence was part of a bid by Moore to have a condition of his probation changed. Under that condition, Moore is not permitted to drive.

Although Harrison Circuit Judge James A. Matish kept intact the prohibition on driving, Watson's mother, Jan Watson, was shocked and upset to learn Moore's license had not been revoked.

Adam Holley, assistant general counsel for the Division of Motor Vehicles, confirmed Moore's license remained in effect as of Friday morning.

"The record doesn't reflect that the arresting officer ever sent a statement, nor that the court or clerk ever sent a copy of the conviction," Holley said.

The records could have been misplaced by Division of Motor Vehicles workers, Holley acknowledged, considering the agency has so many requests it has its own ZIP code. However, misplacement of both the arresting statement and conviction notice would be "highly unusual," Holley said.

The arresting officer was veteran Harrison County Deputy Sgt. S.R. Johnson. Chief Deputy Albert Marano said Johnson recalled sending in to the Division of Motor Vehicles the arresting statement, plus a record of the blood alcohol content of Moore, within the required 48 hours of arrest.

A representative of the office of Harrison County Circuit Clerk Donald L. Kopp II said she had sent documentation of the guilty pleas to the Division of Motor Vehicles in 2002. Documentation of the felony plea went to the state agency's Driver Improvement Office, she said. Documentation on the misdemeanor DUI with death plea went to the DUI section of the Division of Motor Vehicles, she said.

However, both the court record and the arresting officer's statement are not required to be sent by certified mail, and certified mail receipts subsequently were not available.

The representative for Kopp's office added Friday that she was in the process of sending the DMV documentation on Moore's convictions for a second time.

Harrison Prosecutor Joe Shaffer spoke with Division of Motor Vehicles officials on Friday, he said.

"Moore will be notified by certified mail on Monday that his driver's privileges will be suspended for five years," Shaffer said.

Moore will be eligible, if he complies with all the provisions, for reinstatement in 2 1/2 years, "but we will contest that," Shaffer said.

"We want his driving privileges to be suspended for the entire term of his probation," Shaffer said.

Shaffer had not yet replaced John Scott as prosecutor at the time of Moore's plea and sentencing. And notification of the Division of Motor Vehicles is not the responsibility of prosecutors' offices, Shaffer indicated.

Still, he found the situation serious enough to change standard operating procedure in such cases, Shaffer indicated.

"Our policy is going to be that any (court) orders convicting any individuals of any DUI-related offenses will contain a request that the clerk send the order to the DMV," Shaffer said.

"That's not required under the law. But we're going to offer that as a second layer of protection to the public for notifying the DMV of a conviction, which they can certainly use to suspend someone's license," Shaffer said.

Also, even though it isn't his office's job, "from now on we'll be checking every officer and the clerk to make sure the DMV gets the records."

Moore recently returned from the Anthony Correctional Center, where he successfully had completed the program there for youthful offenders. It was at that point that he was placed on five years' probation by Matish.