BUCKHANNON — Two criminal cases The Record Delta has been following for more than a year concluded unexpectedly Thursday morning when both were dismissed by Lewis County Magistrate L.J. McCue upon a motion by the Upshur County Prosecuting Attorney’s office.
Newly elected Magistrate McCue was appointed to preside over the criminal charges alleging election law violations by Asad Derya Khan and Michael Morehead due to conflicts of interest former Upshur County Magistrates reported in their requests for recusal at the inception of the charges.
As soon as the pre-trial hearing went on record, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kelly Cunningham stated, “After research and evaluation, it is the opinion of the State that the allegations contained in the complaint filed in 20M-49M-748 against Asad Derya Khan cannot withstand a First Amendment Constitutional challenge; therefore, the State moves to dismiss.”
The victim, Sheila Sines, immediately interjected and asked to speak to the Court before the case was dismissed. Once granted permission, Sines began her statement by telling Magistrate McCue, “They broke two election laws during this thing and they put me and my family through Hell that you would hope your family never goes through. I am imploring you today—you are going to set a precedence for Election Law violations today, and I beg you to make the right one and make sure they know that they can’t do this any longer—this illicit behavior with elections.”
Khan’s attorney Steven Nanners agreed with the State’s motion to dismiss and expressed that prosecuting his client would be an infringement on his First Amendment rights. Despite the victim’s vehement disagreement, the Magistrate dismissed the case against Khan. Cunningham declined to comment further and told The Record Delta she had already made her statement to the Court.
Approximately an hour later, Khan’s co-defendant Michael Morehead made his way into the courtroom for what was also scheduled to be his pre-trial hearing. Again, Cunningham made a motion to dismiss all the charges against Morehead, citing the State’s opinion that the allegations could not withstand a First Amendment Constitutional challenge. Morehead’s attorney agreed and simply stated, “Obviously no objection, your Honor.”
The victim asked to speak on her own behalf once more and Magistrate McCue listened as Sines implored the Court to explain to her how the other charges could simply be dropped. “These people tried to destroy my wellbeing and they came close to it. And again, Mr. Khan, you allowed him off and he makes a hand gesture going out the door to us. This is what you’re allowing to happen when you just dismiss these types of things,” Sines pleaded.
Before dismissing Morehead’s charges, McCue stated, “The State—they’re the ones that do the research as to whether the evidence is there or not. We can only have a hearing and judgement on what is presented to us.”
Sheila’s husband, Ray Sines also asked to speak to the Court before adjourning. “To me, if somebody broke the law, they were arrested for it, they confessed to it, and she [Cunningham] turns around and tries to use a technicality to get them out… She is supposed to be fighting for my wife, she’s not supposed to be fighting for them,” he expressed. Ray Sines concluded, “This is not justice at all.”
Following the hearing, the victim told The Record Delta, “I am appalled by the decision in today’s proceedings. Asad Khan and Michael Morehead have committed Election crimes, shared the illegal campaign page in said crime, along with several different defamatory sites, yet will not be held accountable for them… Why did it take so many legal minds a whole year to figure out there’s an issue with the code? In my opinion, it would almost always need to be one of two reasons... a coverup or ineptitude. Sadly, both are bad.”
Sines concluded, “Today’s dismissal just feeds that disgusting behavior, and will lead to more of the same. But next time, it could be you, or someone you love. Aside from all of the other despicable things that they have done to me during this run for City Council, in this criminal case, they didn’t just assault me and my life, which would be bad enough on its own. They also assaulted all of our rights to a free and fair election process! So, even if you don’t care about me and my family being maliciously attacked and tormented as we have been by them, everyone should be concerned with Election crimes, and want justice to be served by the legal system for such illegal behavior. Sadly, today, well, today a precedence was set.”