July 16, 2002
I recently read Alldredge's "Corporate Resolution"
concerning the death of Ryan Lewis. As Ryan's Uncle, I was personally
offended by this slick and self-serving press release dressed
up as a so-called "Corporate Resolution." As an attorney,
I was also offended by Alldredge's spin on its nolo contendere
I am not licensed to practice law in West Virginia. But one does
not have to be an expert on West Virginia law to know what has
happened in Court. Plain and simple, Alldredge made a "plea
bargain" with the Prosecutor.
Alldredge claims that "the Sate has acknowledged that L.
Jay Mitchell and John W. White are completely innocent of and
bear no responsibility in the death of Ryan Lewis." Oh really?
The Tucker County Circuit Court accepted Alldredge's plea bargain
in a Court Order that was posted on this website on June 12, 2002.
Sure, Alldredge says that Mitchell and White are innocent; but
if the State agreed with Alldredge's claim, then where in that
Order, or anywhere else in the Court Record for that matter, has
the State made such an acknowledgement?
And that is part of the problem with Alldredge's nolo contendere
plea. Alldredge wants to have it both ways. On the one hand, Alldredge
wants to continue to assert its innocence. At the same time, however,
by its refusal to defend itself in Court, Alldredge has prevented
an impartial group of West Virginia citizens from determining
whether or not Alldredge, Mitchell and White bore any responsibility
in Ryan's death.
As I understand West Virginia law, Alldredge's nolo contendere
plea operates for the purpose of judgment and punishment, the
same as a guilty plea. My question for the defendants, Mitchell
and White is this: If you are so certain that you have "done
nothing" to cause Ryan's death, then why are you unwilling
to allow a jury to determine if that certainty is justified?
Alldredge, in defense of its refusal to let the issue of its
innocence or guilt be determined by an impartial judge and jury,
used high-minded words like "honor," "life long
dedication to children," and "vital mission of helping
families." But where is the "honor" in running
away from the Courthouse, and refusing to let the legal system
do its job of determining the defendants' guilt or innocence in
Ryan's death? On the night before he died, Ryan intentionally
cut himself with his knife. He went to the Alldredge Academy staff,
showed them that he had intentionally cut his wrist, and he gave
them his knife, explaining that he was afraid that he would hurt
himself further if the knife was not taken away from him. Alldredge
was already on notice from Ryan's application to the school that
he was at risk for suicide. How devoted were Alldredge and its
staff to their "vital mission of helping families,"
when they didn't even bother to call Ryan's family when he expressed
suicidal thoughts and actions the day before he took his own life?
And where was the defendants' "life long dedication to children"
when, in the hours before Ryan died, Alldredge's staff chose to
ignore this fourteen year old child's cry for help, and didn't
even bother to talk to Ryan about his suicidal thoughts and impulses?
In their hearts, and before God, Mitchell and White know whether
or not they contributed to Ryan's death. They will have to live
with what they did, or did not do, for the rest of their lives.
No easy plea of nolo contendere and no sanctimonious "Corporate
Resolution" can relieve them of that burden.