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Man jailed for 1 year without an indictment

By Staff | Apr 17, 2009

Philip Meadors

A Shepherdstown man who was held in Eastern Regional Jail (ERJ) for more than a year without being indicted for his alleged crimes still wants his day in court.

Circuit Court Judge David Sanders Monday obliged Philip P. Meadors, 57, formerly of 215 N. Princess St., who was arrested in early January 2008. Sanders set a trial date of June 16.

Meadors was indicted Jan. 23 by a grand jury in the Circuit Court for “embezzlement by misuse of power of attorney.”

According to the indictment, Meadors from Aug. 10, 2007, through Jan. 4, 2008 “did … with the intent to defraud, unlawfully and feloniously embezzle and convert to his own use, the assets or property with which he was entrusted as power of attorney for Dawn E. Beaumont …”

But several Shepherdstown-area residents and other close friends of both Meadors and Beaumont have said the two had an arrangement that worked for both of them – he took care of her, and she let him park and live in his RV camper on her 215 N. Princess St. property.

On Monday during a pretrial hearing, Sanders granted Meadors’ attorney Nicholas F. Colvin’s motion for a trial continuance and a request for further discovery to allow time for the prosecution to provide all the documents necessary to defend Meadors at trial. All that he owns, Colvin said, is contained in his RV, which was seized and impounded when Meadors was arrested.

“There’s no crime unless he intended to do something,” Colvin said during a brief interview outside the courtroom on the second floor of the historic Jefferson County Courthouse. “I’m trying to get ready in 60 days … to catch up what other people haven’t done in 14 months.”

Colvin is the third lawyer to represent Meadors since he was jailed. Beaumont was moved into an area nursing home after Meadors’ arrest, friends of both have said.

“Mister Meadors is not getting any younger,” Sanders said, asking whether Colvin wished to have Meadors’ bond reduced. “He’s got quite a number of months under his belt already.” In fact, Sanders noted, Meadors, before ever having been indicted, already had served well over the minimum one-year sentence for such a property crime.

Colvin said Meadors has more than once refused bond-reduction hearings and wanted to stay in jail.

“Many people in ERJ wish to get out,” Sanders told Meadors. “You’re taking an unusual position.” By the end of the hearing, Meadors had agreed to attend a bond-reduction hearing, which is scheduled Monday, April 20.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brandy Sims said Meadors could have been released and put on probation if he had pleaded “no-contest” to the embezzlement charge.

“He wishes to have his day in court,” Colvin said.

Eight Shepherdstown-area residents attended Monday’s pre-trial hearing to support Meadors.

Marc and Judith Briod, of Shepherdstown, said Meadors had been taking care of Beaumont – who was in her late 80s at the time of the alleged embezzlement – for quite some time. He helped her fix up her house and ran errands for her, said Marc Briod. He and his wife have agreed to serve as character witnesses for Meadors during the trial.

Shepherdstown Police Chief Tim Johnson – who was a patrolman in January 2008 – had arrested Meadors and testified at the grand jury hearing Jan. 23 of this year. Meadors initially was charged with three felonies: obtaining money or goods under false pretenses, felony fraudulent schemes and felony misappropriation of an incapacitated elder’s funds, according to police reports.

According to the original arrest report, Meadors allegedly wrote several checks – one for $8,500 – from Beaumont’s personal checking account. Johnson’s original report also stated that the woman’s own doctor had said as early as February 2004 that she “did not have the capacity to make decisions” and has lacked capacity of several years. Johnson reported it was believed that Beaumont “lacked the mental capacity to authorize Mr. Meadors to be her power of attorney …”

A West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources trainee had contacted police in December 2007 after a report about Meadors was made to DHHR.

Two of the felony charges were later dropped and his bond was reduced from $300,000 to $100,000. And on Jan. 23, Meadors was indicted by a grand jury for “embezzlement by misuse of power of attorney,” according to the indictment signed by Sims.

Many of the same Shepherdstown residents who attended Monday’s hearing with Art Grosman, of Washington D.C., helped pay for Meadors’ attorney fees a year ago after Grosman said the originally assigned public defender “wasn’t doing the job.” Donor contributions have ranged from $150 to $3,000, Grosman said.

Meadors had worked for Grosman, a contractor, many years ago and lived in an apartment in his Washington home.

“When I heard (about) this, I thought ‘the crime doesn’t fit the man,'” Grosman said. “The irony is that Dawn really enjoyed her independence. Phil enjoyed his. And now they’re both in institutions.”