Alderman case continued
Special magistrate Riley Barb allowed the new special prosecutor two more weeks to determine if computer data being held as evidence against former county commissioner Norman Alderman belongs to the Pocahontas County Board of Education or another county.
Alderman, who was fired from his job as the county school technology consultant in 2006, was arrested in 2010 on stalking and harassment by computer, both misdemeanor charges.
County commissioner David Fleming filed a complaint against Alderman that said Alderman used his website to try to discover if Fleming was living outside his district. According to court records, Alderman attempted to incite a community watch to determine where Fleming "went to bed at night and where he got up in the morning." Fleming's complaint said he feared for his safety.
As a result of that complaint, Alderman's extensive collection of computer hardware and software was seized by law enforcement. After the seizure, Alderman posted a video of himself to his website asking that the computers and peripherals be returned because they contained sensitive student data that should not be released.
He was arrested later on the felony data possession charges.
The case Barb characterized as a "fiasco" has had a long and winding history with a total of three magistrates and three prosecuting attorneys.
Pocahontas County Magistrate Kathy Beverage recused herself the day after she signed the search warrant; Special Magistrate Doug Beard, of Greenbrier County, recused himself in November 2010 after Alderman confessed in Beard's court that he had possession of the data from Pocahontas County and from other counties, but did not admit it was illegal for him to have it. Barb, from Tucker County, was subsequently appointed.
Likewise, Pocahontas County Prosecuting Attorney Donna Price recused herself from the case in 2010. Price said Alderman confessed to her, which may mean she could be a witness.
Nicholas County Prosecuting Attorney James Milam was appointed by the Prosecuting Attorney's Institute, but did not show up for a probable cause hearing in September 2011. Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Justin St. Clair now fills that role.
All charges against Alderman were dismissed without prejudice-meaning they could be brought again-after the September 2011 hearing.
St. Clair was appointed in May, although no new charges have been filed in the case. Alderman asked for Thursday's hearing, requesting that the State reveal its evidence. Alderman also demanded that his computers and peripherals be returned to him.
Both misdemeanor charges have been dismissed and cannot be brought again because of the statute of limitations.
However, St. Clair was allowed two weeks to determine which of the data belong to the Pocahontas County Board of Education and which might belong to other counties with which Alderman says he had a contract.
The former commissioner and school teacher did not say how many counties may have given him data, but has mentioned Greenbrier, Mercer,ﾠRoane and Calhoun as counties that had contracts with him.
Alderman said he had mapped WESTEST data so that he could tell which counties did the poorest on any topic, when the State Department of Education found out about his capabilities, he was contacted by people who wanted him to perform the same kind of mapping in individual schools in their counties.
He said he was paid by the West Virginia Department of Education.
"I had the trust of the state's head of testing," Alderman said. "I'm the only one that can really understand it."
Alderman claimed in court last Thursday that he had cracked the code on WESTEST answers and could predict the correct answers on the tests. He said someone at the State Department of Education had asked him not to reveal that knowledge to anyone else, and he hadn't until Thursday in court.
"This is the type of thing they wanted to kill for Norman Alderman," Alderman said.
Since that time, the WESTEST has changed, he continued.
The magistrate said he was concerned that Alderman had contractual obligations he could not fulfill.
St. Clair argued that, although other counties may have allowed Alderman access to their data, he did not own that data.
"Their data still belongs to them," the special prosecutor said. "I don't think it's his."
Although Barb had ordered Alderman's computers and peripherals returned to him, the search warrant allowing the Pocahontas County Sheriff's Department to sift through that equipment was signed by a circuit judge.
St. Clair said Circuit Judge Joseph Pomponio had signed that search warrant, which would mean only Pomponio could order the property to be returned.
"Has Judge Pomponio recused himself from this case?" Barb asked.
The prosecutor did not know the answer.
Barb said he would allow St. Clair two weeks to search the data.
No further court date was scheduled.