Divorces are messy.  Take the impassioned high that accompanies marital bliss, turn it inside out with infidelity, children, financial strains and you have an emotional nuclear blast.  No one escapes unscathed.

Now play out that story in a very public way involving a person in a high profile position and you have the current turmoil involving Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants.

You’ve heard the story by now.  Plants has an affair with an assistant in his office, Sarah Foster, who is married to a Charleston Police detective.  Plants and Foster have a child together, split with their respective partners and marry.

Plants’ ex-wife, Allison, charges Plants punished their 11-year-old son excessively by beating him with a belt, leaving the child with a bruise.  Plants counters that prior to the divorce, he and his ex always agreed on corporal punishment for their children. After an investigation, Plants is charged with domestic battery.

Plants encounters his ex-wife and their two children outside a drug store, resulting in a second criminal charge against him for violating a protective order she obtained following her accusation of child abuse.

The public, unable to look away, polarizes.

Is Plants, a former WVU football player, a hulking brute who beats his children, or a traditional parent who wants to ensure his children understand right from wrong?

Was Plants simply concerned about his two children being alone in their mother’s vehicle outside the pharmacy that night, or did he knowingly break the law by violating a court order?

Did Plants exhibit poor judgment by having an extramarital relationship with an office subordinate or did he find the love of his life as his first marriage disintegrated?

The questions are both awkward and inevitable.

I’ve talked to a number of people about this story in recent weeks who describe Plants as I would—a likeable guy, though I confess to no intimate knowledge of his personal life other than what has already been made public.

Plants’ fundamental problem is that he is the chief law enforcement official of the state’s largest county.  Plants and his office prosecute people for the very crimes he’s accused of committing. And importantly, just like those defendants, he enjoys a presumption of innocence.

There is, however, resolution ahead.  Plants will have his day in court on the two misdemeanor charges.  Additionally,  the state Supreme Court will take up the Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s recommendation that Plants be suspended or that his office be prevented from handling domestic violence cases involving children.

The rule of law and well-practiced procedures provide the basis for sorting out the legal questions here.  These rulings will largely determine whether the two-term prosecutor can continue in his position.

The personal fallout from this very public divorce is another matter.  Someone once told me, “You may not be married for life, but you are divorced for life,” meaning you and your ex must find a way to co-exist.

Here’s hoping that Mark and Allison Plants reach that place someday, and it won’t be on public display.

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  • Lawyers Suck

    Divorce sucks. Everyone involved suffers. End of story. Only the blood sucking lawyers prevail.

  • hailey

    The facts are showing Plants has a very low moral compass, in most places of employment when you are found to have an affair with a subordinate your employment is terminated. Things are a little different in the DA's office, you give the lady to you are having an affair with a massive raise. Karma?

  • You make the call

    Spank - slap with one's open hand or a flat object, esp. on the buttocks as a punishment.
    "she was spanked for spilling ink on the carpet"
    synonyms: smack, slap, hit, cuff;

    Whip - beat (a person or animal) with a whip or similar instrument, esp. as a punishment or to urge them on.
    synonyms: flog, scourge, flagellate, lash, strap, belt, thrash, beat, tan someone's hide

  • arp

    After she destroys this man's career (and this almost surely will), how does the ex-wife think she's going to get her child support payments?

    • Welfare Market

      I will assist her in writing and publishing a book! She will not get on public assistance, so your tax money will only go to support Mark and Sarah's family! How's that? Sleep well.

    • Really?

      She is not destroying his career - his choices will destroy his career.

    • Really?

      I think that any mother would think that money is not a factor in keeping their child safe.

  • Really?

    Their divorce was final back in October of 2012. This is not even an example of their divorce being played out in public. Their divorce was not even a blip in the paper. This is an example of what happens when someone lets their power go to their head. This is about someone who had integrity and let it slip away into oblivion. He has made so many bad decisions and there is no way for him to salvage this. Step down and save what little bit of self respect you have. Every choice he has made in the last few months has been a poor one.

  • A little advise

    Plants main bargaining chip may be his resignation. Once its he is removed, that chip is gone. If it were me, I'd be talking to the special prosecutor and the ODC. Not to Hoppy.

    The clock is running. You may want to cut the vacation short.

  • Phil

    JCP makes a good point.

    "Prosecutors are intrusted with an important third of our justice system. If their idea of OK behavior leads to Plants's choices and actions, we all have a problem.

    Further, definitions are important in the law. If Plants definition of spanking obtains we will have a bunch of injured kids and guiltless parents.

    Is that really what we want ?"

  • Hop'sHip

    Not living near Charleston, I admit I wasn't aware of how corrupt the politics is there. But reading here about this Mark Plants and Danny Jones has convinced me that some of you have been right about continuing to vote for Democrats in this state. Maybe it is time to allow some Republicans to hold office to restore some integrity and dignity to public office.

    • hailey

      Right Hip, we know all democrats are of the highest moral fiber...thanks for the laughs this morning, Mingo County democrats salute you

  • JCP

    Glasser nailed it.

    Prosecutors are intrusted with an important third of our justice system. If their idea of OK behavior leads to Plants's choices and actions, we all have a problem.

    Further, definitions are important in the law. If Plants definition of spanking obtains we will have a bunch of injured kids and guiltless parents.

    Is that really what we want ?

  • Dandy Dave

    Just wondering what would happen to a man who took a belt to his wife in this same manner? Or a wife to her husband?

    I'm pretty certain that they would be arrested.

  • Bull(y) Fighter

    This whole event is public by the choice of Mark Plants- He can't keep his mouth quiet. Every time he turns around you hear him say "my attorneys don't want me to talk". Maybe he should listen. On the other hand you have Allison Plants. Has she talked about it publicly? Look for it.

    Also----- we are talking BEATING not Spanking...

    • Mum

      Are you suggesting (other than reporting an injury she was legally obligated to report) the ex wife has maintained her silence throughout the affair, the pregnancy, the divorce(s), the child birth, the favoritism (pay-raise/ticket fix) news reports and the child abuse investigation. You're talking about a period of 3 years or more without one public comment.

      If that's true, Plants should take a page from her playbook.

      • For reals

        Not one word from her. And yes. Mark should follow her lead! Stop talking Mark, you're making it worse!

    • Aaron

      I'm curious, do you know the family personally? If so, you're as guilty as Mr. Plants as publicizing the events. If not, should you be making statements you know nothing about?

      • Bull(y) Fighter

        No, I do not, but if you watch the news or read the paper you see him say "my attorneys don't want me to talk". -- Do you know the family personally Aaron? You're talking an awful lot about it. So are you as guilty as Mr. Plants? Your argument doesn't make sense.

        • Aaron

          You stated he beat his child like you know emphatically that he did when in reality you have no idea what actually occurred.


          • If it walks like a duck...

            Aaron, I will tell you straight up, yes, he beat his son. If I meet you out at the Walmart parking lot, will you allow me the pleasure of swinging my belt and hitting your body 5 to 10 times, allowing the buckle part to make contact "wherever"? If people see us there and police come, will I be arrested? I would expect an honest answer from you...

          • Aaron

            You'll forgive me if I doubt your sincerity Mr. Fighter.

          • Bull(y) Fighter

            If the Sargent in charge of the case states that the child told him he was struck 10 times and Mark himself stated that the incident lasted 20 seconds and that a 6-7 inch "u" shaped bruise was documented on the child's thigh---- I would say emphatically that is a beating. But- if that is found to be a "spanking" I will apologize to you.

  • WW Glasser

    The Plants case is not about divorce.

    It is about poor judgement and truth telling.

    What quality of judgement leads to:

    1. an adulterous office affair
    2. a secret baby
    3. large raises for his paramour
    4. ticket fixing and
    5. a protection order violation

    How truthful is it to claim that beating with a belt is "spanking."

    • JCP

      Where did he get the money to be elected ?

    • Phil

      So you think Plants's judgement is poor ?

      • If it walks like a duck...

        Of course not. Mark Plants is one of the 3 Wise Men! smh

        • Phil

          Anyone seen proof this guy went to law school ?

  • DWM

    My experience and advice. If you had children with an ex, you owe it to those children to do better as parents than you were as husband and wife. Think of it as two people owning a business together and that business is raising your children. In most cases both parents love the children and want what is best for them. Those parents need to ignore the husband and wife hurts and work together for the good of the kids.

    You don't have to like your ex, but you owe it to your children to work with that ex to be the best of parents you can be together. You will find it easier to parent together as a team of ex's than it will be to try to continue the old husband wife battles while you try to parent separately.

    I've been there and it can be done. The question you need to ask yourself, "Do you love your kids and do you want them to be the best they can be?" If the answer is yes, go to work with your ex!

    • Jeff


    • Bull(y) Fighter

      So- You would allow someone to BEAT your child? That is my only question to you.

      • Oh Did Ya?

        It's hard to whistle blow when you do it yourself (Plants' ex wife)

        • Bruise Clues

          So, did the ex wife leave bruises on her children? Is that what you are saying? You KNOW that as factual, how? You must be wishing she did, but you would be wrong. You really can't be sure that she ever whipped them at all. We have only heard Mark say that, and we already know how believable he is.

          • Oh Did Ya?

            I don't agree with that form of punishment for that very point - if a parent uses a belt for punishment anything can happen - buckle comes off, parent connects harder than intended, strike an area if the child that was unintended etc. My point is that could happen to her as easy as him. She blows the whistle on something she does herself. That seems hypocritical to me.

  • Matt

    "In criminal matters, I truly believe that law enforcement officers and prosecutors should be held to a higher standard than the general public."
    Mark Plants
    May 9, 2011
    upon firing an assistant prosecutor for his arrest for DUI.
    (Source: Charleston Daily Mail, May 9, 2011)
    Seems he doesn't apply those "higher standards" to himself.

    • Info

      That employee had two other guilty pleas for DUI. This was his third DUI arrest. BIG DIFFERENCE!

    • Say what?

      So, the assistant was not afforded the presumption of innocence or the right to be treated equally under the law (as Plants has requested). He was not placed on administrative leave and was summarily fired on the spot.

      Do I have this right? Any irony here?

  • Rich

    Divorce cases don't have to be public. They are private by law, even for public officials.
    He's not the first person in public or the private sector to develop a romance with a coworker. Obviously the knowledge that any person--public or private--gets divorced soon gets out. But generally the sordid details remain private, or at worst, the subject of water cooler gossip.
    As an elected official, Plants made it all a public issue by having an affair with a coworker, fathering a child with her while both were married, giving her raises while he had the affair, and, as was pointed out by other readers yesterday, outright lying about her continuing to work for him after they began their romance. He exacerbated it by getting arrested again, having a press conference, and going on your show. He's brought the publicity on himself.
    Public officials are entitled to private lives. Plants can only blame himself for bringing his private life into the public eye.

    • If it walks like a duck...

      Absolutely! He has started his own reality show, even while his attorneys have tried to turn him off. He deserves all the negative criticism and public humiliation he is getting. He has brought an entire circus to town. This isn't just about an affair or bruising his son, although he would have everyone believe that is the case. He has turned the Kanawha County Prosecutors Office into one which cannot function as it is supposed to. He needs to put his ego aside, step away from the office until his legal matters are resolved. And, keep his mouth shut!