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TODAY: Charleston mayor wants solicitation charges re-filed against lobbyist

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said Tuesday he wants solicitation charges to be re-filed against Phil Reale, a lobbyist and former high-ranking government official whose name was left off a list of offenders from an undercover police sting in July.

"Leaving that name off that press release was a real mistake," Jones said.

Jones held the conference in response to a story in Tuesday's Daily Mail.

After the press conference, Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster said he's heeding Jones' word.

"We will consider re-filing. We're going to work with the city attorney's office and consider re-filing the case," Webster said Tuesday afternoon 

City Attorney Paul Ellis said he hadn't yet been instructed to do anything.

"I'm not doing anything on it right now," Ellis said.

On July 11, Charleston police conducted a sting, in which female officers posed as prostitutes on the West Side. Six people were arrested, but a press release distributed by Sgt. Bobby Eggleton on July 12 purposely omitted Reale's name.

On Aug. 13, Reale's charge was "dismissed without prejudice," meaning the case has the possibility to resurface if Reale finds himself in legal trouble again in the next year, Charleston City Attorney Paul Ellis said Monday.

Eggleton told the Daily Mail on Monday he feared Reale would kill himself if his name appeared on the press release, and so he omitted it.

Webster said he spoke to Eggleton about the situation, and changes could be in order.

"I think we may have to explore our entire media policy," Webster said.

Right now there are several different officers sending out press releases for several different wings of the department, Webster said. While he said he trusts each group to handle their own information, the situation with Reale and the press release warrants a review.

"That's just something that, we're going to take this as an opportunity to really look at to make sure it doesn't happen again," Webster said. 

Jones said he thinks Eggleton was just trying to show compassion.

"I think he's one of the best police officers out there," Jones said of the sergeant.

He said he learned of the incident late last week, and "was flabbergasted" when informed of the event.

"Apparently he did a good job of pulling at the heartstrings of the police officer," Jones said.

Reale was appointed chief of staff for then-Gov. Gaston Caperton in January 1989 and cultivated a successful lobbying company after leaving the administration.

His clients include the oil and gas industries, pharmaceutical and health care companies, the horse and dog racing industry, the Clay Center and the West Virginia Press Association.

Reale told the Daily Mail in a prepared statement Monday evening he was going to the Berry Hills Country Club in South Hills when he saw and approached a woman at the corner of Washington and Beatrice streets on Charleston's West Side.

He said he thought she needed assistance, and said he left the scene when he learned she was "propositioning people."

Police arrested Reale and took him into custody some time later.

Jones indicated police had compelling evidence to convict Reale, and that Reale shouldn't have released a statement to the Daily Mail.

"Phil has now decided to tell the media he has not engaged in those actions," Jones said. "He'd have done himself a favor if he just hadn't said anything."

Jones said he could not release the police report from the incident, citing the ongoing investigation. He did say Reale was driving an "expensive white Mercedes," and called Beatrice Street a "track," referring to an area frequented by prostitutes.

"If he's going down Washington to Berry Hills, he's taking the scenic route," Jones said, going on to say, "I've seen the police file. I think we may have audio to back up this case."

Jones said the female officer posing as a prostitute was from another law enforcement agency and not the Charleston Police Department.

"This is a pretty simple case," he said. "Phil's gone into a state of denial."

While Jones called for charges to be re-filed, he doesn't think Reale -- or anyone -- should go to jail for a first offense of solicitation. First offenders should be fined instead, he said.

Jones said he believes it's important to keep prostitution off the streets. He said many prostitutes are intravenous drug users and carry diseases and he doesn't understand why "you would want to exchange bodily fluids with one of those women."

"There's nobody that wants prostitutes hanging out," he said.

Regardless of the punishment, Jones said he just wants everyone to be treated equally.

"Whether it's me, my son, or anybody, they ought to be treated the same," he said. "I think that Phil Reale should be treated like anyone else. I've instructed the city attorney that's how I feel about it."

Reale did not return a phone message left Tuesday afternoon.

When Reale spoke with the Daily Mail Monday, he was accompanied by George Manahan, head of Charleston-based public relations firm The Manahan Group. Manahan also did not return a phone message left Tuesday.

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


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