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Charleston City Council to vote on prostitution ordinance

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston City Council members will vote today on whether to adopt an ordinance eliminating the possibility of jail time for first-time offenders of four prostitution-related charges.

The bill also contains a clause that retroactively applies the change to affect all "pending, but not yet finally adjudicated charges."

Last week, council's Ordinance and Rules Committee voted 6-to-2 to recommend the full council adopt the bill.

The two "no" votes came from at-large Councilman Chris Dodrill and South Hills Councilman Courtney Persinger, both Republicans -- said they didn't feel comfortable passing the bill with the retroactive clause.

Councilman Jerry Ware, an at-large Democrat, was also at the committee meeting, though he is not a committee member. Citing the same concern, he said he would likely vote against the bill.

The ordinance comes after a recent case involving Phil Reale, a prominent West Virginia lobbyist. Reale was arrested on solicitation charges during a West Side prostitution sting in July.

It was later revealed that Reale's name was left off a press release listing the names of others arrested during the sting. The charges against Reale were dismissed with prejudice in August, meaning the case could be brought to court again.

After the Daily Mail ran a story about the incident in October, Mayor Danny Jones said he wanted the charges to be re-filed, but also said he didn't think anyone should go to jail for certain first-time prostitution offenses.

The retroactive clause in the ordinance would affect Reale's case.

The charges for which jail time would be dropped are engaging in prostitution, entry to a house of prostitution, enticing for prostitution and loitering for prostitution.

Penalties related to keeping houses of prostitution; harboring or permitting entrance to persons under 18 to a house of prostitution; and use of premises for prostitution would not change.

Jones said he doesn't know of anyone who has been sentenced to jail by the city for prostitution in at least 40 years. He also said the change would save the city money by avoiding a possible jury trial, paying for an attorney for the defendant and paying for the accused to be housed in South Central Regional Jail.

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A bill that would initiate single-stream recycling for curbside pickup will not be introduced at this evening's council meeting as previously planned.

The bill is being put on hold for now, and has a target introduction date of February, at-large Mountain Party Councilwoman Kasey Russell said last week. She said the city has other issues related to landfills it wants to address, and therefore would rather combine the single-stream recycling ordinance in one bill with other solid waste issues.

Council will convene at 7 p.m.

Also, the Municipal Beautification Commission will meet at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the City Services Center to discuss issues related to beautification projects in the city.

The Municipal Planning Commission will meet at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the City Services Center to discuss and vote on final plat drawings for five lots in the Wallace Point subdivision in South Hills.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Murphy@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.


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