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Attorney jailed after bond rescinded

A former Kanawha County assistant public defender was jailed over the holiday weekend after bond was rescinded on a charge that the prosecutor said would be dropped.

Charleston police took Steven James Conifer, 32, into custody on Thanksgiving Day.

That was nearly four months after the Kanawha County Prosecutor's Office announced it would drop a single count of receiving support from prostitution that had been filed against Conifer last year.

Conifer was released Monday morning after spending four nights at South Central Regional Jail, according to documents filed in Kanawha Circuit Court. 

He was initially arrested in July 2011 after a search of his Kanawha Boulevard apartment. Authorities had received information from police in New Jersey concerning a possible Internet child prostitution case. Officers removed several recordable DVDs, CDs and five hard drives from his home.

He was charged with receiving support from prostitution and suspended from the Public Defender's Office, where he had worked since January 2011.

George Castelle, chief public defender, said Monday that Conifer was no longer associated with the public defender's office and had not been for some time.

After Conifer was charged, Ardith Michaux posted his $5,000 bond and he was released. Michaux's relationship to Conifer is unknown and attempts to contact her were unsuccessful.

Prosecutor Mark Plants announced on Aug. 21 that his office would drop the charge because a year had passed without the case being presented to a grand jury.

Plants, who could not be reached Monday, said then that prosecutors have one year after an arrest to indict, and the charge must be dropped if an indictment isn't returned in that period. He said that didn't mean the case was closed or that additional charges couldn't be filed.

According to court records, the charge was never officially dropped.

James Cagle, Conifer's attorney, filed a motion to dismiss and release bond in the case on Oct. 25 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

The motion needed the approval of Judge Paul Zakaib. The judge neither approved nor denied the motion.

The motion asserted that three grand jury terms had passed since the case was sent to circuit court from magistrate court and also that the prosecutor's office had stated publicly the case would not go to the grand jury.

The document also claims "efforts by those who posted the bond to receive their refunds have been rebuffed."

On Oct. 17 Michaux filed a document seeking the $5,000 she posted last year for Conifer's release. Her request was granted, and without a bond Conifer was to be sent back to jail.

He was received at South Central at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, records show.

His mother, Dorothy Conifer of Tennessee, posted $5,000 cash Monday morning for his release, according to court documents.

Cagle, Conifer's attorney, declined to comment when reached Monday.

A clerk in Judge Zakaib's office said no orders had been filed Monday as the judge was in trial. No order was filed in Conifer's paperwork in the circuit clerk's office.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.


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