The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Police/Courts

May 22, 2013

Prosecutor seeks life sentence for arsonist

Via seeks to put away repreat offender for good

LEWISBURG — Evidence is expected to be presented in a Greenbrier County courtroom next week in connection with a recidivism action the state is pursuing against David Clayton White, 48, of Meadow Bridge.

White was convicted in February of arson and related crimes in the 2011 torching of vehicles in the State Police parking lot in Rainelle.

Under West Virginia’s recidivism statute, prosecutors can seek a sentence enhancement against people convicted of repeated felonies. Recidivists are habitual criminals.

Greenbrier Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via filed a sentencing information shortly after the conclusion of White’s February trial, asking the court to impose life imprisonment on the man.

In the trial earlier this year, a nine-woman, three-man jury convicted White on all 21 counts of an indictment that charged him with second and third degree arson, intimidation of and retaliation against public officers and various conspiracy crimes.

In the sentencing information filed Feb. 22, Via cites two prior convictions recorded in U.S. District Court against White.

According to the information, White was convicted Dec. 13, 2000, of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and on Jan. 7, 1991, of conducting the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. Both crimes were felonies.

An inquiry into the recidivism accusation is scheduled to be heard before Greenbrier Circuit Judge Joseph C. Pomponio Jr. on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

White’s attorney, Douglas Arbuckle, asked for a new trial in the arson case, but Pomponio denied that motion during a brief hearing Tuesday morning.

Arbuckle’s grounds for the motion included allegations that jurors were allowed to wait in the sheriff’s office rather than in the jury room, that two prosecution witnesses — Nicholas White and Ray Goff — gave testimony that was not credible and that a significant weather-related delay mid-trial was prejudicial to his client.

Via countered that, in the absence of evidence that something “inappropriate” occurred while the jurors were in the sheriff’s office, that issue would not be grounds for a new trial to be granted.

As to the credibility of the two witnesses, Via said, “The jury is the arbiter of credibility, not the court.”

And he opined that the weather delay could just as easily be seen as working in the defense’s favor, since only state’s evidence had been presented prior to the break.

White is currently lodged in the Southern Regional Jail without bond.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

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