Charges dropped against former county commissioner
Tucker County magistrate Riley Barb dismissed charges of stalking and harassment by computer against a former Pocahontas County Commissioner Tuesday. Barb was appointed special magistrate in a criminal case against Norman Alderman, who was a commissioner here nearly 20 years ago.
Alderman testified that he was concerned with county commissioner David Fleming's residence last year after Fleming and his wife divorced. He said he thought Fleming had taken up residence in the Central District, not the Northern District where he was elected.
"I think he's living in his district now," Alderman testified.
He said his motivations in asking where Fleming lived last year were "political."
"It wasn't like I killed anybody," Alderman told Barb.
Fleming told law enforcement officers last year that he was "in fear for his personal safety" because Alderman had posted on his website that he wanted to create a neighborhood watch that would determine "where Fleming went to bed at night and where he got up in the morning," according to the criminal complaint.
Several computers, hard drives and other computer-related equipment were confiscated as part of the investigation. Alderman said it was "unlikely" law enforcement would have found anything on his computers because his information is located on a server elsewhere. He later clarified that statement in an e-mail, saying "There was nothing to be found on my computers or on the server that was wrong or in error."
Barb ordered all of that returned to Alderman.
A charge of possession of computer data or computer programs belonging to another were dismissed in February. Alderman was arrested on that charge after law enforcement officials discovered he had sensitive student records such as Social Security Numbers, grades and free lunch records on his computers. Alderman had posted an Internet video asking for his computers to be returned because they held that information. Alderman was fired for insubordination from his technology position at the board of education several years ago.
The state was not represented in the show cause hearing. Special Prosecutor James Milam was in Grand Jury in Nicholas County. A spokesperson in his office said she had sent a motion for continuance; however, no one in the Pocahontas County Magistrate's office received that motion, and Barb's assistant in Tucker County was not available.
Barb dismissed the charges without prejudice, meaning they could be brought again.
Fleming was dismayed by the turn of events.
"I'm disappointed that I wasn't notified of the hearing so I could be there," he said.