The Williamson Daily News has confirmed that federal investigators and members of the West Virginia State Police (WVSP) have recently been to the Mingo County Courthouse.
“I shook his hand,” said Frank Yates, a local citizen who frequents the Mingo County Courthouse. “He had a funny last name.”
When asked if the name was (Joe) Ciccarelli, Yates said, “Yeah, that’s it. He was kidding me about my walking stick.” Yates carries a long cane/walking stick around with him all the time.
Ciccarelli is the supervisory senior resident agent at the Charleston office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks was asked if the FBI or WVSP have been to the courthouse.
“I cannot confirm or deny that there is a federal investigation of certain Mingo County officials,” Sparks said. “I refer all questions to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Charleston.”
The Daily News spoke with Booth Goodwin, the Southern District of West Virginia United States Attorney with the Department of Justice, on Thursday. Goodwin said he is aware of talk in and about Mingo County, but that it was not prudent for his office to become a part of that conversation.
“I am aware of the reporting of news agencies that there is an investigation going on in the county,” Goodwin said. “But, for me to even just say that there is an investigation could taint people. As prosecutors, when we are presenting a case to the Grand Jury, we cannot talk about it, the court reporter can’t even talk about it, but there is no rule against witnesses talking about cases. It is usually not a problem, we do sometimes though have to deal with that scenario.”
Goodwin said a small community such as Mingo County poses a challenge.
“When our investigators go about their work, they are in the communities, they are seen,” he said. “People notice when there is someone there who they don’t know. It is a challenge we face. We have to be careful about disclosing matters, we have to be concerned with everyone’s trial rights. Just being under investigation can put someone in a negative light. Accusations can be made, and we have to be circumspect.”
Goodwin said he felt the relationship between the media and his office was an important one.
“We try to be as open as possible,” he said. “To get to the point of naming names, that was just going too far. We don’t want to just prosecute, we want to deter crime, and the media is a key part of getting that message out there.”
United States Attorneys serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General and handle prosecution of criminal cases brought by the federal government.
(Reporter Julia Goad contributed to this article.)