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Marino pleads ‘no contest’ to shoplifting charge
by James Fisher
STAFF WRITER

A Clarksburg city councilman and Harrison County Schools assistant principal pleaded no contest Wednesday to shoplifting and paid a $110 ticket to the  City of Bridgeport.
Frank Marino, 48, was scheduled for a 6 p.m. hearing Wednesday in Bridgeport Municipal Court for allegedly shoplifting $8.58 worth of items from Phar-Mor on Dec. 13.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Marino changed his plea from not guilty to no contest and agreed to forfeit the $110, said Bridgeport City Attorney Dean Ramsey.
A plea of no contest means that Marino did not admit guilt but stated that he would offer no defense. Marino could not be reached at his home or his business Wednesday night for comment.
School officials backed Marino’s decision.
“We are pleased this is behind him and it won’t impact one iota
his employment,” said Harrison County Assistant Superintendent William Ashcraft.
R. Allen Gorrell, principal at Nutter Fort, called the
shoplifting ticket a travesty and said he was also glad the incident had been put to rest. Gorrell said he never believed that Marino was guilty.
“The only comment I have is that I have known Frank Marino for 20 years and have always known him to be honest and forthright,” Gorrell said Wednesday. “I am shocked that anyone would say differently.”
Both Gorrell and Ashcraft said they believed Marino’s decision to not fight the ticket was based on advice from his attorney, Gregory A. Morgan.
Morgan previously called the incident “a huge misunderstanding.”
“We believe when the facts are in, he will be exonerated,” Morgan said in December.
Morgan could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
In December Phar-Mor employees stopped Marino after an electronic detection device sounded a store alarm, according to police.
Marino was allegedly observed removing a necklace and telephone coupler from his pocket.


Lewis schools seek sewer service
Weston told it can annex Wagoner Elementary if
service provided

by Torie Knight
STAFF WRITER
A member of the Lewis County Board of Education has told Weston City Council that the board is willing to have Charles Wagoner Elementary School annexed into city limits if that means the board can have city sewer service.
Board member Willie Parker told council that sewer service was critical to the school’s plans. For now, the school system is borrowing a temporary sewage system from the Ritchie County Board of Education.
“We will be more than happy to become residents of the city of Weston,’’ Parker said, adding that the board would allow both the elementary school and Lewis County High School to be annexed into city limits.
The elementary school is located along McGuire Park Road off U.S. Route 33, and is part of a section of land the city had proposed annexing last year. The city withdrew its request to annex that property at the Nov. 30, 1998, Lewis County Commission meeting because of pending financial troubles.
Councilman Jon Tucci asked the school board this week whether it would be willing to have the elementary school annexed if the city provided sewer services. The city already provides services to Lewis County High School at Bendale, which also is outside city limits.
Tucci had said  he didn’t want the city to keep extending sewer service if it were to areas outside city limits that didn’t want to be annexed. For that reason, he was prepared to vote against approving the $9 million sewer bond that will soon be before council.
About $6 million of the bond is for the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The other $3 million would go toward extending sewer services to the McGuire Park area and to nearly 150 acres of commercial property right outside city limits along U.S. Route 33.
“We’ve been planning since day one that sewer would be available,’’ Parker said.
That was enough for Tucci.
“The idea is a lot of small towns will annex roads first just to get their finger in the door,’’ Tucci said.
Although council couldn’t take action on Parker’s request because an ordinance hasn’t been sent to council from the sanitary board yet, members assured the board they understood the importance of sewer service to the school.
“I believe we understand the situation,’’ Councilman Charles Wilson said.
Parker said the Lewis County Board of Education will proceed with the assumption that sewer service will be delivered.
Despite the fact that Charles Wagoner Elementary School does not border city limits, it can be annexed, Weston City Attorney Christy Smith said.
She said cities can follow a shoe-string annexation process in which council can annex bits and pieces into the city without taking all the land in between.


Lawmaker pleads for tobacco tax
by Troy Graham
STAFF WRITER
CHARLESTON — Describing his recently deceased mother as a “drug addict” who was addicted to tobacco and nicotine since the age of 15, House Judiciary Chairman Rick Staton made an impassioned plea Wednesday to keep tobacco out of the hands of children.
Staton urged the state Legislature to adopt a 25 percent tax on smokeless tobacco while telling the story of his mother’s battle with cigarettes and lung cancer. Staton’s mother died on Jan. 20, during the second week of the legislative session.
Addressing the House of Delegates, Staton, D-Wyoming, told lawmakers the only way to keep tobacco out of the hands of children is to make it “cost prohibitive” through taxation.
West Virginia already has one of the highest percentages of smokeless tobacco use in the nation. Teachers in Wyoming County have told Staton that smokeless tobacco use among children is continuing to rise because it is easier to hide, he said.
Since his mother’s death, many delegates have asked Staton if they could do anything to help.
“To those of you who have asked if there is anything you can do, I’m here to tell you there is,” he said, as he urged adoption of the tax. “Today I think we should stand up for kids.”
The tax has received little support since the governor proposed it in his State of the State address.
“Those people who believe in the governor’s proposal have not been heard from,” said Underwood spokesman Dan Page. “I think in the next few weeks you’ll see the support to keep these kinds of products out of the hands of children.”
The governor has proposed a 25 percent excise tax on the wholesale price of smokeless tobacco. The bill has not yet been introduced.
“If we can take one step to remove tobacco from the hands of children we may be saving their lives,” Page said.
Staton’s emotional speech had a noticeable effect on an attentive House. Several delegates wiped tears from their eyes, and Staton’s voice faltered as he also fought back tears.
Staton described how his mother, who smoked unfiltered cigarettes, lost a third of her lung to cancer in the 1980s and was forced to wear an oxygen mask to breath on her death bed.
As a lawyer, Staton said he never believed in the tobacco lawsuits, one of which West Virginia settled against several tobacco manufacturers. Staton said he believed smoking was a lifestyle choice and he was hesitant to support taxation in the past. But his mother’s experience opened his eyes to the effects of tobacco when children start using it at an early age, he said.
“We need to look to the next generation and not the next election,” he said.
Following the speech, several local delegates said they would support a tax.
“It took a lot of guts to stand up and do that,” said Delegate Sam Cann, D-Harrison. “Depending on the form, I could probably support it.”
Delegate Barbara Warner, D-Harrison, said it only makes sense to tax tobacco.
“We tax cigarette smokers, so why not smokeless tobacco?” she asked.
“There’s got to be a way to help these children stay away from tobacco,” said Delegate Frank Angotti, D-Harrison.


Harrison man on trial for alleged ax attack
by James Fisher
STAFF WRITER
A Harrison County man testified in circuit court Wednesday that another man beat him with an ax and bit off half his ear during an altercation in March 1998.
Clarence Yeager Jr. has been charged with malicious wounding for the incident. He is accused of hitting Brian Bell in the shoulder and leg with the ax and biting Bell’s ear.
Bell testified Wednesday that the attack left him permanently injured. He has plates and screws in his leg, and he is embarrassed about his ear, he said.
Defense Attorney Greg Elam contends that Yeager was only defending himself after Bell tried to attack Yeager with a knife.
The fight started when Bell allegedly asked Yeager’s then-girlfriend, Carol Moore, to smoke marijuana with him, Elam said.
Moore testified Wednesday that Bell did make the request. Shortly after that, Yeager asked her if she “wanted him to set Brian (Bell) straight.”
“I told him no, don’t worry about it, let it go,” she testified.
The actual sequence of events surrounding the incident was unclear from testimony Wednesday. Witnesses also gave conflicting testimony about whether Bell was armed with a knife.
Debra Hall, the owner of the trailer in Meadowbrook where the incident occured, testified that Yeager came to her residence and he and Bell began to argue and wrestle around inside her home.
She told them to “take it outside,” she testified, and the two men left the trailer. However, Hall testified she did not see the rest of the altercation.
Josh Bennett, Bell’s cousin, testified that only Yeager left the trailer and Bell stayed inside. He testified Yeager picked up the ax and came to the doorway, where the two men again began to argue.
Yeager then struck Bell in the shoulder and the leg with the ax, Bennett testified.
Hall testified she couldn’t remember if Bell had a knife. Bennett testified he could not tell from where he was sitting if Bell had a knife. Bell testified he did not have a knife.
Police searched around the residence three separate times but did not find the knife, West Virginia State Police Trooper Reginald Patterson testified Wednesday.
Moore testified Yeager went to the house and “asked Brian to step outside.”
The two argued on the front lawn, she testified, and then Bell went back into the trailer. Yeager stepped up on the porch and picked up the ax, she testified.
“I heard him tell Mr. Bell to ‘put it down, get back, stay back’,” she testified. She then left the area to find Yeager’s brother and did not see the rest of the altercation.
She returned a short time later and Yeager exited the trailer. She testified he had blood on him and that he said it was Bell’s blood.
She also testified that Yeager had a cut on his arm and told her that Bell had cut him with a knife.



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