W.Va. Corrections Division Admits Error Led To Political Attack Ad

May 5, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — It was a textbook campaign ad, red meat for a tough race — a killer freed, a governor to blame and his Republican challenger promising to keep everyone safe.

But just hours after it aired, West Virginia corrections officials disputed the facts behind gubernatorial hopeful Woody Thrasher’s latest attack on Gov. Jim Justice, and admitted they’re responsible for the error.

The ad debuted Monday morning, criticizing Justice for releasing a convicted murderer as part of a deal to parole dozens of inmates during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Justice didn’t even check on who he let out,” Thrasher said in the advertisement, which was based on information from a Freedom of Information Act request filed with the state.

By Monday afternoon, the state corrections department said it had mistakenly listed the man among those released under the deal. Instead, the agency said he was actually let out for unrelated reasons, after doing his time and then serving 60 days for an alleged probation violation.

Thrasher has been highly critical of the Republican governor in the lead up to the June 9 primary election. He previously was Justice’s commerce secretary but resigned after numerous complaints about poor management of a program he oversaw, to provide housing assistance for victims of a devastating flood in 2016.

The parolee, 35-year-old Michael David Day, was convicted of killing a homeless Vietnam veteran when he was teenager. He was sentenced to life in prison but was paroled in 2017 after a U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled it unconstitutional for juveniles to receive mandatory life sentences. Day was jailed again in January on an alleged probation violation and released March 27.

The headline to this story was updated at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6, to more accurately reflect which state agency was responsible for the error.