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W.Va. Lawyer Accused of Hiring Legal Fees Collection Strongarm

Posted Aug 26, 2008 1:45 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A West Virginia lawyer who is seeking election as a county prosecutor is facing potential discipline for allegedly hiring a convicted felon to collect legal fees—using threats and even actual physical force to do so, if necessary—and asking him to help him get a "throw away" gun.

Attorney Mark Blevins of Wheeling denies this, however, saying that he didn't know that Curtis Griffin was a felon when he hired him, never authorized threats or the use of violence and never sought a "throw away" gun (or used the phrase), just an ordinary firearm, reports the Intelligencer. The alleged conduct is claimed to have taken place in 2003 and 2004.

"Griffin was an informant for the Ohio Valley Drug Task Force who wore a wire during meetings with Blevins and his associate," the newspaper recounts. "Griffin is now incarcerated for an unrelated crime, and has since called Blevins from prison to ask that he defend him. Blevins declined."

A trial is scheduled next month, before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals after a recommendation by a three-member panel of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board that Blevins' law license be suspended for 18 months.

In a lengthy article about the case last week, the West Virginia Record provides details from the board's brief. Among its contentions are that Blevins initially gave Griffin a list of four clients who together owed him a total of $15,000. If Griffin could get them to pay, Blevins allegedly offered to pay him roughly one-third of the total.

"Also, should Griffin succeed in collecting from the first four clients, Blevins had additional clients he wanted to pay up, including an attorney in Washington, D.C., who owed him $25,000," the Record article recounts, recapping what is said in the brief. "Nevertheless, the collection efforts on the first four clients were to take place when Blevins was out of town, the Board alleges."

Blevins is running for election in November as a Republican candidate for Ohio County prosecutor, against an incumbent. He and his lawyer say no complaint had been filed against him during 18 years of practice until he let it be known, in 2006, that he intended to run in 2008 for the prosecutor job.

Updated at 6:25 p.m., central time, to add information from the West Virginia Record.

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