WHEELING - Ohio County Circuit Judge James Mazzone on Wednesday denied a motion by Prosecutor Scott Smith to hold Charles Severance without bond during extradition proceedings that would return him to Virginia.
Mazzone's ruling came after Smith and Chief Public Defender Shayne Welling exchanged arguments as to whether the basis for a Virginia warrant naming Severance as a felon in possession of a firearm is a strong enough charge to hold him without bond or under $100,000 bond as initially set by Magistrate Joe Roxby.
Wheeling police arrested Severance, 53, of Alexandria, Va., last week at the Ohio County Public Library, in response to a tip from the Federal Bureau of Investigation alleging he is wanted on a fugitive warrant out of Virginia for a firearms violation.
Photos by Scott McCloskey/Sheriff’s deputies escort Charles Severance from the City-County Building in Wheeling following a Wednesday hearing in Ohio County Circuit Court.
On Monday, Mazzone granted Smith's motion to hold Severance without bond until Wednesday's hearing after Smith said Severance is being investigated by Alexandria authorities regarding three homicides in 2003, 2013 and February of this year. Welling argued the bond was excessive and the entire proceeding was pretextual because the only charge alleged in the fugitive warrant is felon in possession of a firearm.
Mazzone set Wednesday's hearing to hear Smith's evidence and potential witnesses to corroborate that Severance is a flight risk or a danger to society.
"We have a witness box here but there is nobody in it," Welling told the judge.
Smith said the photos of Severance at the gate of the Russian embassy with a passport in this hand depict a man planning the leave the jurisdiction. However, Welling said the warrant for Severance is a "sham arrest" to give Virginia authorities time to investigate his involvement in three homicides.
"We are not going to be a puppet to the Commonwealth," Welling said. "There is a reason we seceded from Virginia."
Welling's motion filed Tuesday alleges Smith's request to hold Severance without bond is "irrelevant, reckless, unsupported and premature."
Smith took exception to Welling's assertion that Virginia authorities are using the firearms violation as a means to hold Severance rather than charge him with the three murders.
"I'm not pretending about anything," Smith said. "The state of Virginia intends to extradite the defendant."
A major point of Welling's argument is an allegation that police arrested Severance shortly after noon March 13 and it appears they did not officially serve him with the warrant until 10 hours later at 10:08 p.m.
After a brief recess to review the motions, Mazzone returned to the bench and denied Smith's motion for no bond because he said the prosecutor failed to prove his allegations.
"The state wanted the defendant held without bond because he is considered to be a flight risk and a danger to society," Mazzone said. "There has been no such evidence presented. Allegations are not evidence. There is no documentation and no witnesses. The embassy photo is not supported by testimony."
Mazzone reinstated the original $100,000 cash bond pending any future modifications motions filed by Smith between now and a March 31 status hearing.