Trial date set in case against Washington County Prosecutor
Judge considers motions in case Friday
At a motions hearing Friday morning in Washington County Common Pleas Court, a special judge, Patricia Cosgrove, reserved her decision but set a trial date in the case of Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings.
Rings is accused of sexual imposition and coercion related to a case the county was prosecuting in July 2017. Both charges are misdemeanors.
Amy Davis, who at the time was 32 and had been convicted but not sentenced on drug trafficking charges, accused Rings of sending her inappropriate text messages and on one occasion groping her in his office, according to a bill of particulars filed in an earlier hearing. A special prosecutor, Matt Donahue, appointed by the state Attorney General, filed the bill with the court in July at the request of Rings’ defense counsel, Dennis McNamara. The bill consisted primarily of police reports and other law enforcement documents.
Davis, in addition to being the defendant in one case, also was the victim in a concurrent case involving allegations of kidnapping against her boyfriend. She was sentenced on the drug charges in September 2017 to 60 days in jail and three years community control. The allegations against Rings were filed with the Vienna, W.Va., police department in early October. Davis alleged that the text messages were sent in June and July, and Rings made inappropriate advances to her in his office on July 6.
Davis’ attorney, Eric Fowler, said in November the sentence his client received was in line for a first-time offense of that nature and to his knowledge she received no special consideration.
The first charge against Rings, coercion, is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. The second, sexual imposition, is a third-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
At Friday’s motions hearing, McNamara argued against the prosecution’s proposal to enter statements from several anonymous women, characterized as Jane Does, one going back more than two decades, that would suggest a pattern of behavior on Rings’ part consistent with the allegations against him by Davis. McNamara added that similar evidence had been presented to the grand jury.
“The special prosecutor called 30 witnesses over three days, but the grand jury found probable cause for two misdemeanors,” McNamara said. “He’s attempting to try the case that the grand jury refused to indict … none of this has to do with whether there was coercion or sexual imposition, it’s just salacious and slanderous.”
Donahue said the prosecution is anticipating that the defense will argue that Rings was using the contact with Davis as a means of serving some law enforcement purpose, “keeping her engaged,” and intends to counter that with testimony, coupled with an expert analysis, showing that Rings’ past behavior suggests he used the power of his office to intimidate women.
Rings, who has practiced law since Nov. 16, 1987, began serving in the prosecutor’s office as an assistant prosecutor in 1989, left and then returned Aug. 8, 1992 as an assistant prosecutor until June 30, 2015. That’s when his predecessor Jim Schneider retired and named Rings as interim prosecutor. Rings was then elected to the role of county prosecutor in the November 2015 general election.
According to his personnel file, no official complaints have been filed against Rings.
Donahue noted that the prosecutors had not received reciprocal discovery from McNamara – prosecuting attorneys and defense attorneys are required to exchange the material they intend to present at trial, such as witness lists and evidence, before the trial begins – and after Cosgrove questioned him about it, McNamara said he had been awaiting the motions hearing to determine what arguments would be used by prosecutors and by extension how the defense would counter then.
Cosgrove said she would reserve a decision on the evidence and witnesses motion after examining the material from both sides, but instructed McNamara to comply with reciprocal discovery and get his material to Donahue.
Cosgrove set a final pre-trial for 11 a.m. Nov. 2 and trial to start at 9 a.m Dec. 10.
She instructed court staff to produce a large jury pool, and said provision should be made to examine each prospective juror.
“I’ll have a written ruling on evidence prior to that date (Nov. 2),” Cosgrove said. “And bring in extra jurors and individually voir dire them, ask them if they can set aside any opinions they might have had from what they heard.”
McNamara also requested that the no-contact list that forms part of Rings’ release conditions, which includes potential witnesses that might be called at trial, be reduced because it includes people with whom Rings has ordinary social interactions.
“It’s two to three months, he can live with it,” Cosgrove said, denying the motion.
Kevin Rings case, motions hearing
•Prosecutors wish to call numerous witnesses who have anonymously alleged questionable behavior against Rings.
•Prosecutors wish to enter evidence from an expert witness.
•Defense argues that the witness testimony is not pertinent to the case.
•Defense argues that expert testimony is not relevant.
•Defense argues that the grand jury was presented with same testimony and declined to indict on anything but two misdemeanors.
•Judge reserves until she has opportunity to review motions from state and defense.
•Dates set for final pre-trial and jury trial.