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Charges dropped for Sen. Maroney over use of ‘Dr.’ on campaign signs

CHARLESTON — In an unusual October “surprise,” a Republican state senator faced several misdemeanor charges for about 48 hours this week in a little known, seldom used law cited by officials in a county in which he is not even a candidate.

An arrest warrant was issued Oct. 26 for state Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, by the Pleasants County Magistrate’s Office. Maroney was charged with four misdemeanor counts of “unlawful use of prefix ‘Doctor’ or ‘Dr.’ penalty.”

The warrant was signed by Pleasants County Magistrate Randy Nutter.

According to Maroney, his attorney, Paul Harris, received paperwork Thursday from the Pleasants County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office that the charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be brought again.

Prosecutor Brian Carr was in court Thursday and unavailable for comment. But according to the motion document, Carr gave the following reason for his motion to dismiss: “Upon conferring with counsel, interests of justice require additional investigation into this matter.”

In a text message Thursday afternoon, Maroney accused supporters of Josh Gary, a John Marshall High School teacher and Maroney’s Democratic opponent in the state Senate race, of pushing for the charges. Gary’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“My opponent and his people have reached an all-time low in West Virginia politics, beneath scum,” Maroney said. “They found a … magistrate in Pleasants County … to issue an arrest warrant for me to be arrested in front of my children on fake charges, charges that were dismissed … because they were bogus.”

According to West Virginia Code 61-10-21, “it shall be unlawful for any person to use the prefix ‘Doctor’ or ‘Dr.’ in connection with his name in any letter, business card, advertisement, sign or public display of any nature whatsoever, without affixing thereto suitable words or letters designating the degree which he holds.”

Anyone found guilty of violating 61-10-21 could pay between $10 and $500 per offense and/or be jailed for up to 12 months.

Maroney’s campaign signs and logo say “Dr. Mike Maroney,” but don’t include an M.D. on the signs. Maroney, a Glen Dale resident, is a radiologist and specializes in general radiology and neuroradiology. He is a 1994 graduate of the Marshall University School of Medicine and completed a residency and fellowship at the University of Maryland in 1999. He is board certified through the American Board of Radiology.

Maroney on Thursday expressed anger over how the matter was handled.

“A magistrate in a county outside of my district has issued a warrant for my arrest over (yard signs), citing state code saying that I cannot identify myself as a doctor without … acknowledging what type of physician I am,” Maroney said.

“There is (no case law) — not one case in 90 years” that the law has been on the books, Maroney said. “The only mention of the law is a law review article naming the 5 best and 5 worst laws in the United States, and it made the article as one of the worst. It is clear as day — they are out to get me.”

Neither the West Virginia Code portal on the West Virginia Legislature’s website nor a search of LexisNexis turned up any information on when the law was put on the books. It was also unclear if the law had ever been used against anyone. According to Maroney, the law dates back to 1931.

The article Maroney referenced was published in 2000 by the Northwestern University School of Law. “The most obvious and probably most plentiful, if not the most significant, flaw of low-scoring criminal codes is their criminalization of conduct that is harmless at worst,” the authors wrote. “It is fortunate for Julius Erving that no NBA franchise exists in West Virginia, as his conducting business there under his usual basketball sobriquet would be punishable by the state.”

Maroney is not the only doctor to campaign citing his medical experience. State Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, made a run for the Democratic primary in June as Dr. Ron Stollings. Stollings is a physician at Boone Memorial Hospital in Madison. Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, has also used “Dr.” on his campaign signs. Takubo is a pulmonologist in the Charleston area.

It is also unclear why Pleasants County brought the charges. Maroney is running for a second term in the state Senate’s 2nd district, which includes parts of Marshall, Monongalia, Marion, and Gilmer counties, and all of Wetzel, Doddridge, Ritchie, Calhoun, and Tyler counties. Pleasants County shares a border with Tyler and Ritchie counties, but Pleasants County is in the 3rd Senatorial District.

While the Pleasants County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the warrant, no one in the office would say why charges were brought against Maroney. Sheriff Wayne Wilson was off Thursday and unavailable for comment.

According to the warrant, Sheriff’s Department Cpl. R.S. Marant was listed as the complainant.

In his statement, Marant said he was advised of the signs, including one on the Pleasants/Tyler border on W.Va. 2, one near Clay Street in St. Marys, one near Belmont on W.Va. 2, and one on the Pleasants/Wood border.

Marant did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nutter, the magistrate who signed off on the warrant, was off duty Thursday. During a phone conversation at his home, Nutter said he could provide no further information beyond what was in the warrant.

“I just can’t do that,” Nutter said. “I can’t tell you anything about it.”

Maroney also is awaiting trial in Marshall County Magistrate Court on misdemeanor charges of soliciting a prostitute. Maroney was one of eight people charged in August 2019. His case has been continued four times, most recently on Oct. 14 after the court considered a request for a special prosecutor due to an alleged conflict of interest by Marshall County Prosecuting Attorney Rhonda Wade.

The St. Marys Oracle contributed to this story.

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