The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 30, 2013

Convicted arsonist named habitual offender, faces life sentence

By Tina Alvey
Register-Herald Reporter

LEWISBURG — A Greenbrier County jury identified convicted arsonist David Clayton White as a habitual criminal, effectively putting him in prison for life.

The seven-woman, five-man jury deliberated for less than 20 minutes before returning its findings at the conclusion of a Wednesday recidivism trial.

White proclaimed his innocence as he left the courtroom.

The jury found that White, 48, of Meadow Bridge was the same man who previously had been convicted on two separate occasions of federal felony offenses — racketeering and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The state’s evidence included eyewitness testimony from two federal probation officers and expert analysis by a State Police fingerprint unit supervisor.

All three agreed that the David Clayton White in the courtroom Wednesday was the same David C. White and David White identified in court documents as having been convicted of the prior federal crimes.

“They answered the question that you are being asked to answer collectively,” Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via told the jury in his closing remarks.

White was found guilty by another Greenbrier County jury in February of 21 arson and conspiracy crimes connected to a conflagration that occurred in the parking lot of the State Police detachment in Rainelle in December 2011.

In a brief closing argument, defense attorney Douglas Arbuckle reminded the jury, “What we (lawyers) say is not evidence.”

He argued that the state failed to introduce any evidence linking his client to the David Clayton White convicted of bearing responsibility for the 2011 blaze.

Via countered, “That’s not what this case is about.”

He cautioned the jury, “Don’t make this more complex than it needs to be.”

Circuit Judge Joseph C. Pomponio Jr. set a disposition hearing in the matter for July 30, at which time White will face a life sentence as a recidivist for one of the 21 felonies of which he was convicted in February.

The judge retains limited discretion on the sentences he will hand down on the other 20 felonies, according to Via.

The prosecutor expressed satisfaction that resolution has been reached in large part on an 18-month-old case.

“It’s important to us to close a case,” Via said.

Originally, five people were indicted in connection with the 2011 fire in the State Police detachment’s parking lot.

Of those five, three now stand convicted — David Clayton White found guilty by a jury in February and Ray L. Goff, 29, of Meadow Bridge and Nicholas White, 23, of Danese agreeing to plea arrangements with the state.

All charges were dropped earlier this week against a fourth person, David White’s wife, Jennifer White, 32, of Meadow Bridge.

The fifth defendant, Joshua Emmanuel Redden, 26, of Meadow Bridge, faces arson and conspiracy charges identical to the crimes of which David White was convicted in February.

No firm trial date has been set for Redden.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com