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Man mistakenly released from jail back in police custody

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Kanawha County officials disagree over who is responsible for mistakenly ordering the release of a man charged with trying to steal a baby.

Jeremy Carter was arrested Monday evening after a search that lasted nearly four days.

South Charleston Sgt. P.C. Rader said officers arrested Carter just after 6:30 p.m. at a home on Riverside Drive. They received information that Carter was in the home and found him inside sleeping on a couch.

Rader said Carter didn't resist but claimed ignorance.

"He played the 'dumb card,' and claimed he didn't know anything about it," Rader said. "It's kind of hard to believe because it was all over the news -- on the TV and in the papers -- that he shouldn't have been out of jail."

Rader said there were others in the home at the time of the arrest and that they could be facing charges as well. Officers will work with the county prosecutor's office to determine what, if any, charges would be filed against Carter and those in the home.

Prosecutors will present Carter's case to a grand jury this month in hopes of having him indicted on a charge of kidnapping.

Circuit Judge Carrie Webster signed a Feb. 28 order that apparently was interpreted to mean the case against Carter had been dismissed. 

She said that's not what she intended.

Carter walked free despite a $150,000 full surety bond that had been set for him but not posted. 

After learning of his release, Webster at first took full responsibility.

However, on Sunday she released a three-page statement to the media that placed the blame on the staff member in the Kanawha Circuit Clerk's Office who processed the documents.

The statement reads, in part, "Upon further review and consideration of this matter, the Court concludes that Mr. Carter's release resulted from a mistake made on the Jail Release Form, which incorrectly stated that Case Number 12-F-2685 (the attempted kidnapping charge) was dismissed.

"It is the Jail Release form and NOT the Court's dismissal Order, that triggered the mistaken release of Mr. Carter. The Jail Release Form authorizing Mr. Carter's release was prepared and signed by the Circuit Clerk's office."

Prosecutor Mark Plants said he didn't believe that was true.

"The clerk was just doing what the judge said," Plants said. "Typically, when there's a request for a case to be dismissed, there's a hearing with both parties present."

In trying to clear her docket of what she thought were inactive cases, Webster also mistakenly dismissed charges against Gary Wayne Mullens, who was convicted last year by a jury of kidnapping a senior citizen and taking money from him. He is serving a 25-year sentence in that case.

Mullens, however, was not released and remains in jail. 

Carter, 33, was set free last week. Plants said as soon as the release of Carter was realized, a capias order for his arrest was issued. There had been reports that Carter turned himself in, but that was not true, Plants said.

"There was a fugitive warrant out for his arrest from Tennessee, where he is from, but that was also dismissed by Judge Webster," he said. "There's no reason she should have done that, either."

"He's dangerous," Plants said of Carter.

He was arrested near Pennsylvania and Chesapeake Streets in South Charleston when he attempted to unbuckle and take a baby from a mother's stroller. Plants said Carter suffers from mental illness.

According to the criminal complaint filed in magistrate court, the mother fought with Carter and then put the child into the vehicle of a family member. Carter tried to pull the 1-year-old out of the car.

When police arrived, he became aggressive and had to be "taken to the ground and placed in handcuff restraints."

Webster said she had intended to dismiss a motion for a psychiatric evaluation of Carter that had become moot because of an earlier order. She said a clerk erred in interpreting her order to mean the judge had dismissed all of the cases against him.

The judge said she never signed a jail release form, and she attached to her statement copies of that form signed by the circuit clerk and a deputy clerk. 

Circuit Clerk Cathy Gatson stands behind her staff. She insists no errors were made.

"We process those documents on a daily basis," Gatson said. "In this specific case, it is my understanding that Judge Webster was attempting to clear cases from her docket and prepared the order exclusive of the prosecutor's office.

"Typically, case dismissals are prepared by the prosecutor, are thoroughly vetted and approved for a dismissal. That didn't happen in this case," she said.

"We have a situation under review," Gatson said. "But I don't believe our office misconducted ourselves.

"We work for the circuit judges," the clerk said. "We will work with the issues she has, and I'm sure we'll be able to address things in a friendly way. We want to move forward to make sure this never happens again."

Webster agreed.

"Regardless of the cause or reason(s) for Mr. Carter's mistaken release, it should not have happened," she said in her statement.

"What is imperative now is that all involved parties discuss and work to correct any existing procedural flaws in the operation of our court system to ensure that an incident like this will never happen again."

Meanwhile, Carter's case will go to the grand jury soon.

"We will move forward with prosecution, and if he is indicted, we'll see if he shows up for arraignment," Plants said.

Writer Ashley B. Craig contributed to this report.

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at cherylc@dailymail.com or 304-348-4832. 


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