West Virginia Prosecutor Suspended After Pulling Gun On Halloween Spider Decorations

jchristopherwhite11It looks like we already have an entry for the 2016 Spooky torts listing. Assistant Prosecutor Chris White clearly does not like spiders, even fake ones. That much was clear given his response to finding fake spiders scattered around the West Virginia office for Halloween. White pulled a gun and threatened to shoot the fake spiders, explaining that he is “deathly afraid of spiders.” It appears that his arachnophobia (fear of spiders) was not matched by a hoplophobia (fear of firearms).

The other employees were reportedly shaken up and Logan County Prosecuting Attorney John Bennett later suspended White. Bennett said “He said they had spiders everyplace and he said he told them it wasn’t funny, and he couldn’t stand them, and he did indeed get a gun out. It had no clip in it, of course they wouldn’t know that, I wouldn’t either if I looked at it, to tell you the truth.”

images-1220px-CriminologygunglockIt is not clear how White thought threatening the decorative spiders would keep them at bay or whether he was trying to deter those who sought to deck out the office in a Halloween theme.

It is not clear whether White will be charged or whether he will be allowed to return to work. He was not suspended by Bennett for weeks after the incident — a rather slow response to clearly unbalanced conduct. Even stranger was Bennett’s second order: remove the spiders.

jchristopherwhite2Bennett has also barred other employees from carrying guns in the office, though one would have assumed that law enforcement personnel would be particularly trustworthy in the handling of weapons. Bennett indicated that he does not expect to file criminal charges. White (right) however does not appear to have the greatest of job prospects given Bennett’s statement: “I never saw it coming, that’s for sure. Obviously, I wouldn’t have even hired him if I had seen it coming. And the fact that he’s been there five years and we haven’t had any incidents like this also, to me, is a pretty good indication it’s certainly out of the ordinary.”

This is not our first interaction with White. He was the prosecutor in the controversial (and in my view groundless) prosecution of Jared Marcum, who was arrested after wearing a NRA tee shirt to school.

If the gun was unloaded and otherwise lawful to possess, the question is likely to turn on whether he threatened any of the staff with the weapon. If he did not, it would seem unlikely that criminal charges would emerge. However, it would seem equally clear that White would not continue as a prosecutor for his reckless and unhinged conduct.

What do you think?

6 thoughts on “West Virginia Prosecutor Suspended After Pulling Gun On Halloween Spider Decorations”

  1. “Attorneys [& AG’s/Prosecutors, by inference] are officers of the court and held to a higher standard” – JT.

    OH … REALLY? DON’T MAKE ME LAUGH!

    In many states, especially the more hoplophobic ones – like NJ – White c/would have been charged with:
    Possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, brandishing a weapon, creating a false public alarm/panic, Assault with a deadly weapon, etc.

    If one of us non-‘only ones’ did what White did, we’d be locked-up for quite some time. Will he be prosecuted for his potentially violent actions, as he prosecuted a non-violent student for a T-Shirt?

    Don’t cut this guy any slack! While I sympathize with his phobia(s), I also sympathize with any innocent bystanders – and spiders – who could have been caught in the crossfire.

    This guy should be delivering newspapers for a living. And, I recommend some Zanax …

    [I’m not an Attorney-At-Law nor a licensed physician.This shouldn’t be considered medical nor legal advice]

  2. Hoplophobia, now I have a name for some of our gun-control fans.

    I agree Nick, the last thing you want around is someone who cannot maintain weapon discipline when confronted with a stressful situation.

  3. Nick – he is not wrapped to tight. He has arachnophobia, a recognized phobia. This causes a fight or flight response, he went into the fight response, but restrained himself as he realized they were not real. No reason to do anything about it. They will not have spiders next year.

  4. Wrapped rather tightly. I wouldn’t fire him but would suspend for 3 months w/o pay, and require a psych evaluation prior to his return to work.

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