EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSCHARGES DISMISSED
from Eyewitness News Online
Time Runs Out; Pimping Charge Dropped Against Kanawha Public Defender
Reported by: Kallie Cart
Web Producer: Jeff Morris
Reported: Aug. 22, 2012 10:35 AM EDT
Updated: Aug. 22, 2012 5:58 PM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
Charges against a Kanawha County assistant public defender accused of pimping out young boys online have been dropped. But the charges were dropped on a technicality, and the prosecutor said the case is far from closed.
Steven Conifer, who worked in the Kanawha County Public Defender's Office, was arrested and charged with pimping and receiving support from prostitution in July 2011. The prosecutor only has a year to indict a defendant after his or her arrest. Once a year passes, the charges must be dropped. However, the prosecutor can refile the charges.
The charges stem from an online conversation where Conifer allegedly offered the sexual services of young boys in exchange for money, and even allegedly sent a picture of a young boy in a sports jersey. Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants said his office reserves the right to refile those charges. He added that other than the chat, there's little evidence that Conifer ever actually pimped out boys.
"There was probable cause at the time to believe that children were in danger; law enforcement did exactly the right thing," Plants said. "The evidence would have shown that those conversations occurred from his computer. They were very sexually explicit conversations that he had with other adults. There were some conversations where he pretended to be a minor. While these conversations are sickening, they're not illegal."
But the case isn't closed. Plants said time ran out because of the type of alleged crime. Police confiscated five computer hard drives from Conifer's apartment, and investigators are still sifting through them. Plants said based on what's found on Conifer's computers, other charges could be forthcoming.
"I'm not going to comment on any other things that were potentially found on his computer," Plants said.
Eyewitness News contacted Conifer's attorney, but he said he is not commenting on the case yet. When Conifer was arrested last year, he maintained his innocence.
Conifer was suspended without pay from the Public Defender's Office. Chief Public Defender George Castelle said office is now evaluating the situation.
Charges have been dismissed against a Kanawha County public defender charged with receiving support from prostitution.
The Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday that charges were dismissed against Steven Conifer because, under law, the time ran out to present the case to the grand jury. But Prosecutor Mark Plants said the county can refile the charges, adding the investigation is continuing.
Plants said investigators have not finished combing through Conifer's computer and additional charges could be forthcoming. Conifer had been accused of offering the sexual services of young boys.
Police had previously served a search warrant on his apartment and seized his computer, DVDs and other items.
Stay tuned to Eyewitness News for further updates.
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