The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 9, 2013

Second man sentenced in 2011 State Police barracks arson

LEWISBURG — A Danese man who testified against his great-uncle earlier this week was sentenced Friday for his part in a fire at the Rainelle barracks of the State Police in December 2011.

Nicholas Michael White, 23, had earlier entered guilty pleas to four felony counts of arson in the third degree as part of an agreement with the state under which the other 17 felony charges on which he was indicted were dismissed.

Also as part of the plea arrangement, White agreed to testify against others charged in the arson conspiracy, including his great-uncle, David White, 48, of Meadow Bridge. In part due to Nicholas White’s testimony, David White was convicted by a jury Tuesday of all 21 crimes of which he was accused.

At Nicholas White’s sentencing hearing Friday morning, Greenbrier Circuit Judge Joseph C. Pomponio Jr., who also presided over David White’s trial, noted that the younger man had cooperated with the state, as promised, and “was forthright” in his testimony.

“It takes a lot of courage to stand up in a situation like that,” Pomponio said, an obvious reference to the threats David White had allegedly directed toward not only his grandnephew but also other co-defendants in the arson conspiracy.

Acting on a joint recommendation from the defense and the state, Pomponio sentenced Nicholas White to three years in prison for each of the four arson counts of which the young man stands convicted. Those penitentiary terms are to run consecutively, for a total of 12 years.

Also in accordance with the joint recommendation, the judge then suspended the prison term in favor of remanding the defendant to the Anthony Correctional Center for youthful offenders. If he successfully completes the program at Anthony and meets the court’s conditions, Nicholas White will not be further incarcerated in this matter.

White’s attorney, Michael R. Whitt, explained that, while the deal his client received might appear lenient, “Anthony Center is not a fun camp.”

Whitt said Nicholas was drawn into the arson scheme by David White, whom the lawyer characterized as the “primary actor” in the conspiracy to torch a number of vehicles parked in the State Police lot in Rainelle. Fires were set in those vehicles in the early morning hours of Dec. 15, 2011.

Whitt said his client “acknowledges that his first step into the arena of crime was a large one,” but that prosecutors and State Police officials all agreed that the plea arrangement was a fair one for a first-time offender, despite the seriousness of the crimes.

“(The plea) was negotiated with the state for a number of reasons ... including Mr. (Nicholas) White’s complete lack of a criminal record,” Whitt noted.

Greenbrier County Prosecutor Patrick Via emphasized that a key part of the agreement was that a “substantial” prison term is hanging over Nicholas White’s head if he proves not to be successful at Anthony.

The judge advised the defendant, “(Anthony) has a lot of good programs that you can take advantage of.”

Calling Nicholas White “a fine young man,” Pomponio concluded, “I feel confident that Nicholas is going to do well in the Anthony program.”

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