Legal Ethics

Prosecutor Suspended Over Plea Deal Allowing Victim to Slap Defendant

A West Virginia prosecutor has been suspended for one month without pay for OK’ing a plea deal that permitted the victim to slap the defendant in exchange for dropping the petit larceny case.

Assistant Kanawha County prosecutor Stewart Altmeyer jokingly relayed the offer, only to have the one-slap deal accepted by the defendant and his attorney, reports the Charleston Gazette. According to court records, he was represented by assistant Kanawha County public defender Katherine Kessell.

Explaining Altmeyer’s suspension, County Prosecutor Mark Plants described the plea deal as “just unacceptable,” the newspaper reports. However, Kanawha County Public Defender George Castelle had a somewhat different take.

While the incident is “under review,” he tells the Gazette, the situation present complex issues for the defense. “Whether to accept an unusual or even an inappropriate plea agreement is ordinarily a decision that’s for the client to make rather than for the lawyer to make. Ordinarily, the lawyer has an obligation to convey the possibilities to the client without a veto power over them.”

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