Former St. Marys Clerk Pleads Guilty in SantaGate Probe
CHARLESTON – A former clerk for the St. Marys Police Department has pleaded guilty to perjury as a federal grand jury probes a program that canceled traffic tickets and certain misdemeanor charges in exchange for donations to a Christmas gift program.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the North District of West Virginia, former St. Marys Police Department clerk Carolyn Taylor pleaded guilty after she admitted to lying to a federal grand jury during an investigation of the police department’s “Slow Down for the Holidays” program.
According to information released Wednesday, Taylor helped collect donations for the program, which began in 2008. The program would dismiss minor traffic infractions between October and December each year in exchange for donations of $50 gift cards or the equivalent of $50 in toys.
Investigators said they asked Taylor about her role in the program and how it operated. Under oath before a grand jury, Taylor said she had no knowledge of any employees of the St. Marys Police Department personally benefiting from donations made to the program. During the course of the investigation, it was discovered that Taylor used at least one gift card donated through the program.
Taylor faces up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. The investigation into the Slow Down for the Holidays program is ongoing.
In 2018, Pleasants County Prosecutor Brian Carr and the Pleasants County Sheriff’s Department began participating in the program. Carr and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Paul Marteney are under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the West Virginia Office of Disciplinary Counsel for dismissing certain misdemeanor offenses – including several charges for driving under the influence — in exchange for defendants giving cash donations to the program.
“A policy that allows one to buy their way out of a DUI is inherently wrong and never should have been implemented in the first place,” said U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld. “It is not surprising that someone involved with this ill-advised program kept a portion of the donations for herself.”
According to documents released by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Clerk’s Office last year, the Investigative Panel of the West Virginia Lawyer Disciplinary Board found that the City of St. Marys did not keep track of funds to Slow Down for the Holidays, nor did it track how donations to the program were spent.
According to records produced by City Attorney Keith White to ODC investigators, the Slow Down for the Holidays program collected approximately $41,286 between 2018 and 2020 during the time the Pleasants County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the Pleasants County Sheriff’s Department participated in the program. The program was paused after the ODC and the Judicial Investigation Commission began investigating.
The ODC filed a petition in March with the state Supreme Court seeking the immediate suspension of Carr’s law license after learning that Carr and Marteney are under federal criminal investigation for their part in the Slow Down for the Holidays program.
The Investigative Panel of the West Virginia Lawyer Disciplinary Board charged Carr and Marteney last October of multiple violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct for dismissing select misdemeanor charges between 2018 and 2020 in exchange for donations to the program. State investigators used the word “bribe” to describe the scheme. The ODC case is stayed while the federal investigation continues.
An earlier investigation by the Judicial Investigation Commission resulted in the resignations of Pleasants County magistrates Randy Nutter and Lisa Taylor for their participation in the scheme by Carr and Marteney. Nutter and Taylor received public admonishments from the JIC and can never seek public office again for any judicial positions.