ELKINS - The Randolph County Prosecutor's Office is reporting an increase in the number of felony convictions in 2013 over the previous five years.
Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker, responding to a request from The Inter-Mountain, said that his office obtained 106 felony convictions for 2013, up from 48 in 2012.
"In reviewing historical data," Parker said in a prepared statement, "there were 31 felony convictions in cases indicted in 2008, 40 felony convictions in cases indicted in 2009, 31 felony convictions in cases indicted in 2010, and 20 felony convictions in cases indicted in 2011."
Parker reported that a large reason for the recent increase in convictions is that the caseload in Randolph County Circuit Court has grown significantly over the last several years, with a surge in felony cases filed.
Specifically, 115 different felony cases were filed by the prosecuting attorney's office in Randolph County Circuit Court in 2013, while 88 felony cases were filed in 2012, 66 felony cases were filed in 2011, 66 felony cases filed in 2010, 76 felony cases filed in 2009, and 64 felony cases filed in 2008, Parker reports.
Parker was first sworn in as prosecuting attorney in January 2012 following the resignation of Richard Busch.
Busch resigned from his elected position on Dec. 5, 2011, which was the day county commissioners expected to receive a written report about an investigation into alleged "personnel issues" from hired Charleston-area attorney Jim Lees. Prior to issuing the report, Lees told Busch's counsel, Michael Benninger, that the findings would be considered "moot" if Busch resigned by Dec. 5, 2011. Busch gave the County Commission a 15-minute resignation notice Dec. 5, 2011.
Parker was elected prosecuting attorney in the November 2012 general election.
Although an uptick in crime activity is partially responsible for the higher conviction numbers, Parker said he believes that the upsurge in felony convictions is due to a number of different factors and is not solely related to increased crime.
"Specifically, we have seen an increase in the number of law enforcement officers within the Randolph County Sheriff's Department, which results in greater detection and investigation of crime and, thus, more cases," Parker said.
"Further, the officers from all of the law enforcement agencies operating within Randolph County have been providing good, solid investigations, which leads to a higher conviction rate."
Randolph County Sheriff Mark Brady said his department has played a part in the convictions surge as well.
"We have seen success due to the dedication of the Randolph County Sheriff's Office, including the law enforcement and tax divisions, as well as the office and support staff," Brady said. "I think the progress is a good way to show the public how their tax money is being utilized to their best possible benefit."
Parker said the Randolph County Commission granted his request to fund another assistant prosecutor's position, which has helped significantly with the caseload.
"I have a very qualified, hard-working group of people working in the prosecutor's office, which is vital to effectively and efficiently handling this number of cases," said Parker.
"This is a great example of the system working, of people working as a team, hand-in-hand," Brady said. "This has been a very active year on the local, state and national levels. There's a lot to be proud of in Randolph County."
Contact Chad Clem by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.