More Time Sought To Defend Severance

WHEELING- Chief Public Defender Shayne Welling has asked Circuit Judge James Mazzone to give him until April 24 to submit a writ of habeas corpus outlining his challenge to the extradition of Charles Severance.

A status hearing set for 10 a.m. Monday before Mazzone has been canceled and no dates have been set for the final hearing. At an earlier hearing, Mazzone set Monday for a status report on the governor’s warrant process.

“That hearing is not necessary because I already know the governors’ warrant was served on the defendant on Wednesday,” Mazzone said.

Court procedures give Welling seven days to prepare his challenge, and then Prosecutor Scott Smith seven days to respond.

Welling, however, may be facing an uphill battle in his effort to block Severance’s extradition.

Since police arrested Severance on March 13 at the Ohio County Public Library as a fugitive out of Loudoun County, Virginia, wanted on a felon in possession of a firearm charge, the case has become a legal battle between Smith and Welling.

Smith has argued Severance is a flight risk and a danger to society and is a suspect in Virginia murders occurring in 2003, 2013 and earlier this year.

Welling has questioned the entire extradition process because he believes police picked up Severance on a “sham arrest” designed to give Virginia authorities time to further their investigation into whether he is involved in the three murders.

He contends that if Alexandria, Va. authorities want Severance on charges relative to the murders, the extradition warrant should indicate that and not point to the gun violation in Loudoun County.

On Wednesday, Severance was taken to the sheriff’s department, where he was served with a governor’s warrant signed by West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

In a motion filed late Friday, Welling said he needs more time to prepare because the burden of proof is on him. He said he, “desires to weigh the available evidence in determining whether to continue the initial challenge, abandon challenges or discover new challenges.”

The motion states that conducting the investigation stage prior to filing the writ would promote “judicial economy.”

Welling claims his requests for discovery information are not being answered by many agencies, including the Wheeling Police Department, Loudoun County officers, Alexandria detectives and officials of The Wheeling Inn where Severance had been staying before getting arrested.

On Friday, Welling received an affidavit from a Loudoun County that may call into question the basis upon which Virginia Gov. Terry McCauliffe’s warrant was issued. The motion also states that on Wednesday, Welling learned McCauliffe made statements regarding his signing of the extradition warrant which appear to validate prior claims and demonstrates concern over the purpose for issuing the warrant.

Welling said he has made Freedom of Information Act requests to both governors for information about the warrants.