Handling of deputy’s case generates doubt

The Journal, mobile.journal-news.net
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Berkeley County, WV

A betrayal of the public trust.

For the general public, a betrayal of the public trust is the most serious accusation resulting from the case against former Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Cpl. Christopher McCulley.

Sadly, the public can't decide who committed the greater betrayal: McCulley, who stole drugs from the sheriff's evidence room, or Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely, who closed the case with a no-contest plea and a $5 fine plus court costs.

The Journal is certain of one thing: The actions of both McCulley and Games-Neely allow the public to question the integrity of our law enforcement community.

McCulley was sworn to uphold the law when he stole nine oxycodone pills from the sheriff's evidence room. That action erodes the reputation of all law enforcement officers.

Games-Neely, by her explanation of the charge against McCulley, almost dares the public to question the integrity of her office.

"That's the illusion that everybody has that there was this big felony here. There is no felony. There was a misdemeanor. He stole pills. He stole nine of them. The street value was less than $180," Games-Neely said.

The Journal doubts the public realized that the street value of the pills taken would be the deciding factor in filing charges against an experienced deputy who stole a controlled substance from the sheriff's evidence locker. Somehow, it seems other factors - the theft, the illegal possession of a controlled substance, the destroying of evidence in a criminal case - might have been considered.

The handling of this case has been questionable from the beginning. Why didn't an outside agency handle the case? Why didn't an outside agency inventory the evidence room to look for additional thefts?

And now this: a no-contest plea, $5 fine and court costs. It only adds insult to injury when you realize that McCulley confessed to the crime and the prosecutor's office ended up with a no-contest plea, not a guilty plea.

Court and law enforcement officials are expected to serve and protect the public. In this case, it's easy to think they protect their own first.

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