A request for the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office to be recused from a potential criminal case against County Commissioner Kent Carper has been approved.
There are not active charges, and officials say an investigation isn’t complete.
Carper has been the subject of widespread rumors about an indecent exposure incident at Daniel Boone Park on the Monday of a week he wound up being hospitalized and underwent open heart surgery.
Because Carper’s position as commission president means he has influence over the county prosecutor’s office budget, officials there asked to be disqualified from any potential court action.
The recusal request was accepted by Kanawha Circuit Judge Tera Salango, who is the wife of County Commissioner Ben Salango.
The judge’s disqualification order, filed today, is titled “Investigation Pertaining to Kent Carper.” It also establishes a case number, but goes into no further detail about the status of any investigation.
The request from the Kanawha prosecutor merely makes reference to “investigation into the named individual alleged violation of state law.”
The prosecutor went on to provide this reason: “Kent Carper is the subject matter of the above cited investigation. Mr. Carper is the President of the Kanawha County Commission. In order to avoid the appearance of impropriety move to a special prosecutor.”
So the judge’s order approves the process of allowing the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute to appoint a prosecutor from another county to handle any potential criminal case. That’s a fairly common procedure in cases where local prosecutors might have a conflict.
West Virginia MetroNews and other news organizations have filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the City of Charleston and with Metro 911 for incident reports and recordings of 911 calls from Daniel Boone Park from that Monday afternoon.
Each of the FOIA requests has been denied, at least for now, but they resulted in confirmation of an investigation — although they did not specify who is being investigated or any other circumstances.
Asked this week if there has been any change of status of the information request, Metro 911 executive director John Rutherford referred to a probe by the Charleston Police Department.
“CPD is still investigating. So nothing has changed at this time,” Rutherford replied.
Similarly, City of Charleston Attorney Kevin Baker responded: “There is no change to the status.”
Under West Virginia code, an indecent exposure charge is considered a misdemeanor punishable by no more than 90 days in jail or fine no more than $250, or both.
More punishment is possible if the exposure was done for sexual gratification. If that can be proven, the fine is no more than $500 and the jail time is no more than 12 months.
Carper remains in the hospital recovering from a stroke, a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery, a family spokesman said.
“Still in the hospital, hopefully on the road to repair. It’s just taking longer than what folks had hoped,” said Tom Susman, speaking on behalf of Carper’s family.
Carper had open heart surgery on May 18.
He experienced a stroke in the days just before going into the hospital for quadruple bypass surgery, Susman said. Carper’s family had already said he had a heart attack early that week.
“It appears he had a stroke either Sunday or Monday before the heart attack,” Susman said, citing medical diagnostic testing by the medical team.
Carper’s health is also affected by a kidney transplant a couple of years ago and diabetes, Susman said.
His family released a statement on May 19 linking the health crisis to the unspecified allegations.
“My father’s illness and his apparent confusion have been misinterpreted as being something inappropriate. My family and I regret this awful misunderstanding,” Carper’s daughter Virginia stated then.