Prosecutor’s Mistake Lets Marshall County Man Go Free
MOUNDSVILLE — A man who faced decades behind bars is a free man after the court found that the prosecution followed improper procedure in his indictment.
Michael Daniel “Dan” Bowman, now 41, was initially convicted in July 2017 of sexual abuse by a custodian, sexual assault, and three counts of first-degree sexual abuse, with his sentences running consecutively for a sentence of 28 to 70 years. His case was heard by Judge Jeff Cramer and prosecuted by Rhonda Wade, who has since retired as Marshall County’s prosecutor. She now serves as an assistant prosecutor. Wade was not available for comment.
Joe Canestraro, who was elected as county prosecutor in 2020, said the court found “fatal errors” in court records when Bowman had filed a writ of habeas corpus, and had obtained a copy of the grand jury proceedings related to his case.
“Basically, the grand jury was never instructed on the law,” Canestraro said. “In Bowman’s case, he was charged with sexual abuse by a custodian, sexual (assault) and sexual abuse-first (degree). They were never advised what the elements of those crimes were.”
As a result, Bowman’s convictions were overturned and he has since returned to living as a free man, Canestraro said. His hearing occurred over Tuesday and Wednesday and was heard by Judge David Hummel. Hummel was not able to be reached for comment Friday.
Canestraro stressed that the errors made in prosecuting the case were completely accidental, and that the omission was a mistake, rather than an intentional act by Wade, who prosecuted the case.
Canestraro, who was an assistant prosecutor at the time, did not handle the case.
In his filings, Bowman asserted that the grand jury’s foreman had initialed an indictment that he was meant to sign, prompting the court to recall him. While it was clarified that what the foreman signed was, in fact, his signature, Canestraro said the court reviewed the indictment and discovered that the grand jury had been improperly instructed, dismissing the case with prejudice, meaning the state cannot retry the case against him.
Canestraro said it was currently unknown what options the state had to move forward with Bowman, pending the receipt of Hummel’s ruling, regarding whether or not he can appeal the decision.
“He’s out free right now, no bond, no requirement to register as a sex offender,” Canestraro said. “He wasn’t supposed to see the parole board for another 15 years. … We’re waiting on the court’s order to see if there’s anything we can do to appeal the decision.”
Canestraro said he now needs to revisit the other indictments handed down by the November 2015 grand jury and see if there were any other cases which may have experienced similar errors, and contact defense counsel if so.
As for Wade’s future with the Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office, Canestraro said it was his policy not to publicly discuss personnel matters.
While Bowman was represented by attorney Mark Panepinto in court, Canestraro said he represented himself in court on Tuesday and Wednesday, and that he had continued filing motions on his own behalf after his conviction.
In a statement, Panepinto said Bowman maintains his complete innocence of the crimes he was charged with, and pointed out that Bowman was initially indicted on 13 charges, and ultimately acquitted of four more counts, with four others being dismissed as well at trial.
“I have the utmost professional respect for all of the attorneys at the Marshall County Prosecutor’s office who were involved in this case back in 2017 and I’m very confident that the new prosecutor and his staff will continue to seek justice and properly correct any other past injustices,” Panepinto said.
“It has been quite difficult for Mr. Bowman having been incarcerated while awaiting justice. Mr. Bowman is very relieved that the law has been applied, pleased to be home with his family, and continues to maintain his complete innocence.”