Judge lambastes man for bullying 84-year-old businessman
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Calling him a menace to society, a judge sentenced a Charleston man to 25 years in prison for kidnapping and taking thousands of dollars from the former owner of The Strand.
A jury found Gary Wayne Mullins, 50, guilty in February of that charge. He was acquitted of fraudulent schemes and robbery charges involving more than $6,000 he took from Kanawha City resident George Jacobs, 84.
Jacobs testified at that trial, telling jurors he was afraid of Mullins when the man approached him in the Kroger parking lot and ordered him to drive him to his home and bank to get $2,000 cash. He said Mullins kept returning to his home asking for more.
The victim died unexpectedly the day after he testified, but the jury was prevented from knowing that as they deliberated.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster sentenced Mullins Thursday, after hearing an impassioned plea from the state for a 50-year sentence and emotional testimony from Jacobs' children who believe Mullins hastened their father's death.
At the trial, Jacobs told jurors Mullins kept coming to his home demanding money. He was too embarrassed and scared to tell his children, he said.
Assistant Prosecutor Erica Lord said, "Mr. Mullins deserves nothing less than the full 50 years. What he did was absolutely evil. He's a career criminal. And he blames me, the police, the system, everyone but himself."
The judge recognized Mullins long record of crime, including other charges that are pending against him for scamming residents in the Woodbridge subdivision.
Webster told Mullins, "You take from people. You steal. But what you did on that day in question is you preyed upon one of what we term in this society as one of the most vulnerable."
Jacobs was the former owner of The Strand, a popular Hale Street restaurant, Arcade Tobacco on Virginia Street and several other local businesses.
The judge said she couldn't overlook the toll the crime and the trial took on Jacobs.
"It was apparent to me that man had gone through a lot," she said. "It would be very, very easy for me to give you the maximum sentence, to send a message. But I'll use judicial restraint.
"You are not the classic kidnapper that takes a gun and holds a hostage," she said, after Mullins, his sister and aunt, insisted he was no kidnapper.
"I recognize you do not have a violent criminal history," she said. "But he suffered tremendously," she said of Jacobs.
Local attorney Pat Jacobs called his father brave for testifying.
"It's my personal belief that the defendant's conduct caused my father's death," Jacobs said. "He's a predator. He preys on the elderly because they are easy to confuse and take advantage of."
Mullins said he and the elder Jacobs had a long friendship. He called him "a wonderful man" and "a great man" who gave him money that he intended to repay.
"I'm not here to say I'm an angel," Mullins told Webster. "I'm sorry I borrowed more money from him than I should have, but I never kidnapped anyone. I'm not evil. I'm not a threat to society."
He asked for probation.
"Clearly he denies he kidnapped anyone," Webster said. "Clearly the jury felt differently."
Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4832.