By Wendy Holdren
Former Raleigh County Sheriff’s Deputy Randy Burgess, originally charged with child abuse resulting in injury, pleaded guilty Thursday to a lesser charge of domestic battery.
Burgess was charged in January and released on $10,000 bond. Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office placed him on suspended leave with pay.
While on suspended leave, Burgess was charged in June with three counts of fraud with an access device, three counts of breaking and entering an automobile and embezzlement.
He is being accused of breaking into a Sheriff’s Office cruiser on three separate occasions in June, allegedly taking credit cards to fill his personal vehicle with gas.
Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller said Burgess resigned from the Sheriff’s Office July 9 and was charged July 23 with unlawfully representing himself as a police officer.
Burgess pleaded not guilty Nov. 6 to the new charges, but since he was charged with additional crimes while out on bond, Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick reinstated his bond and placed him in custody at Southern Regional Jail.
By pleading guilty Thursday to the lesser charge of domestic battery, Burgess now faces up to one year in prison. Had he been convicted of child abuse resulting in injury, he would have faced one to five years.
Keller said if the case had gone to trial, the state would have presented evidence of Burgess’ 9-year-old daughter being struck at least one time with a belt.
She said Burgess and his wife were upset with their daughter for hiding clothes.
Burgess’ daughter would testify at trial that her father struck her with his belt and his hand, Keller said.
She said the state would also show photographic evidence of multiple bruises, one of which was consistent with a bruise received from a belt.
When Burgess was interviewed by West Virginia State Police Sgt. Melissa Chambers, Burgess denied striking his child, but he said as she was running away from him, she tripped and fell over furniture.
He admitted to Chambers that the bruises could have came from him grabbing her. He told Chambers his daughter “fought him like a man.”
As part of the plea agreement, Burgess’ $10,000 bond was reinstated with a condition of home confinement until his sentencing on Jan. 22.
This bond will serve as a blanket bond for all Burgess’ pending charges.
“Defendants have us over a barrel in these instances,” Keller said.
“We don’t want these 9- and 10-year-old girls to have to testify.”
Keller said because Burgess’ daughter is living with other family members, she would have had no legal right to speak with her before a trial. Keller said that would have added extra pressure on his daughter, because she wouldn’t have known what questions she would be asked in court.
To avoid further harming the child, Keller said her office often opts to take a plea from a defendant.
Keller said by pleading guilty to domestic battery, Burgess will not be allowed to possess a firearm; therefore he will be ineligible to be a police officer. During his upcoming sentencing in January, Keller said the court will relinquish his law enforcement certification.