PETERSBURG, W.Va. (CN) – The case against a former West Virginia court clerk accused of trying to operate a meth lab from her home may soon be resolved, as the judge overseeing it indicated Tuesday that a plea deal is close.
Grant County Circuit Court Judge James W. Courrier, Jr. on Tuesday denied a motion by attorney Nathan Walters to dismiss the indictment against former Hardy County Circuit Clerk Kimberly A. Hartman.
After hearing remarks from Walters and Grant County Prosecutor John G. Ours on how the case has progressed since Hartman was charged nearly two years ago, Courrier found the delay was not a result of anything nefarious but was due to both sides trying to reach a plea agreement.
In March 2018, a Hardy County grand jury returned a 38-count indictment against Hartman, her then-husband Dennis, and another couple, William Brantner and Samantha Beatty, for allegedly conspiring to purchase the drug pseudoephedrine at local pharmacies and manufacture it into methamphetamine at the Hartmans’ home on Sunset Terrace in Moorefield, the county seat.
The indictment charged the former court clerk with two counts of accessory before the fact of possession of pseudoephedrine, one count of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and one count of child neglect or injury. The indictment alleges Hartman’s daughter, now 10 years old, was present during the attempted manufacturing process.
Since Hartman was the county circuit clerk at the time, the cases were transferred to neighboring Grant County, in the Potomac Highlands region of the state. Hartman resigned a week after being indicted and was replaced by Kelly J. Schockey, who won last year’s general election to fill the remainder of Hartman’s term.
In West Virginia, circuit clerks are elected to a six-year term. Hartman first won election in 2010 and was narrowly reelected in 2016.
After listening to Ours and Walters, Courrier said the delay in bringing Hartman’s case to a close absent a trial was largely due to his rejection of a tentative July 2018 plea offer for her to receive a deferred sentence. The judge said she is awaiting completion of a mental health evaluation and pre-plea investigation.
Noting he typically doesn’t order the latter, Courrier said he felt it was important due to Hartman’s previous position as the circuit clerk, in addition to the scrutiny on the judicial system at the time following impeachment of all five justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court over corruption charges.
In entertaining a verbal motion to continue the case, Courrier expressed concern about setting a new hearing in January only for Walters to make a renewed motion to dismiss and extend the case into another term of court. However, Walters assured him he has no intention of doing that.
“I intend on putting this matter to bed whether it’s January, February or March,” Walters said.
Separately, Dennis Hartman and Beatty pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit a felony. Brantner had pleaded guilty to two counts. All received suspended prison sentences and were placed on probation for seven years with the possibility of early release after three and a half.
Earlier this year, Brantner and Dennis Hartman were charged with separate probation violations.
Court records show Brantner failed drug tests and was arrested in Maryland for possession of drug paraphernalia. In addition to failed drug tests, Hartman did not keep appointments with his probation officer or complete a drug rehabilitation program.