No Charges After Trial Lawyer Allegedly Siphoned Donations To Democratic Judge

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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West Virginia prosecutors will not pursue charges against a trial lawyer who allegedly funneled campaign donations to a judge who secured a $38 million verdict for one of his clients.

The investigation was prompted by a Daily Caller News Foundation report that suggested a Florida-based corporate entity unlawfully funneled thousands of dollars to Justice Robin Jean Davis’ 2012 reelection bid. Davis, a Democrat, has served on the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia since 1996.

Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Charles Miller wrote in an August letter to the West Virginia Secretary of State that he would not bring a case against the alleged offenders, despite evidence of criminal violations. The letter was obtained by the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Miller explained that prosecutions were precluded by a five-year statute of limitations, which expired in September. Though there is other evidence of outstanding crimes, he does not believe investigations could be completed before the statute of limitations expire in the coming months.

“The report indicates that offenses such as forgery, uttering, identity theft, falsifying accounts, computer fraud, and similar felonious violations of West Virginia law occurred,” the prosecutor’s letter notes of an earlier report from the secretary of state’s office.

The lawyer, Michael Fuller of McHugh Fuller Law Group, argued a nursing home negligence case before the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2014. Fuller secured a $91 million award for his clients in a lower court, which was challenged on appeal. Davis wrote the majority opinion for a divided court, which preserved $38 million of the $91 million verdict. Fuller’s firm collected $17 million for its services.

Just two years earlier, 18 individuals closely connected to Fuller’s firm donated almost $25,000 to Davis’ reelection campaign. The donations were made shortly after Fuller himself purchased the Davis family private jet. The jet’s market value is well in excess of 1 million dollars.

Six of these eighteen donations bear the hallmarks of an illegal straw donor scheme. Contribution records reviewed by TheDCNF show that six of the 18 donations were made by individuals from Plant City, Fla. All six donations were made in the amount of $1,000, the maximum allowed by state law.

Each donation was made on Jan. 12, 2012. None of the donors have a history of political activism or a discernible connection to West Virginia. The only connection the Florida donors have to one another is their relationship with Steve Edwards, president of a Plant City landscaping company called S&O Greenworks. All six donors are either employees or the company, or neighbors of Edwards.

One of these individuals told TheDCNF that they did not make a donation to the Davis campaign, and that any donation made in their name was submitted without their knowledge or permission. The source, intimately familiar with S&O Greenworks and its finances, speculated that Edwards used company money to make the donations at Fuller’s behest. Edwards and Fuller have a longstanding personal relationship.

The source was granted anonymity in order to speak candidly about his knowledge of the donations.

Though Fuller and Edwards have escaped criminal prosecution, other penalties may attend the conclusion of the investigation. State bar associations could open ethics investigations in jurisdictions where Fuller is licensed to practice law.

West Virginia is on the American Tort Reform Association’s watch list for unfair civil courts.


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