Defendants In Torture Case Ready For First Court Appearances

Sunday, September 16th 2007, 6:24 pm
By: News On 6

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ Six white people accused of holding a black woman captive while they tortured and sexually assaulted her are scheduled to make their initial court appearances this week.

But the proceedings may be delayed because public defenders representing two of the defendants have recused themselves, Logan County Prosecutor Brian Abraham said.

The six defendants are charged with assaulting Megan Williams, 20, for more than a week at a ramshackle trailer in Big Creek. Police say she was tortured, sexually assaulted, forced to eat animal droppings and taunted with a racial slur.

Bobby Brewster, George Messer, Alisha Burton and Karen Burton are scheduled to appear Monday in Logan County Magistrate Court. Frankie Brewster and Danny Combs are scheduled for to appear on Tuesday.

Public defenders representing Bobby Brewster and Messer have recused themselves because they had represented some of the defendants in the past.

A public defender can't represent a defendant in this case if they have represented any of the other defendants in past cases, Logan County Magistrate Court Clerk Deeanna Briggs said.

Since 1991, police have filed 108 criminal charges against the six.

Jack Rogers, executive director of the state's public defender services, said other lawyers could be hired on short-term contracts, or attorneys could be brought in from neighboring counties.

Frankie Brewster, 49, and her son, Bobby Brewster, 24, are both charged with kidnapping and sexual assault, among other counts.

Combs, 20, of Harts, is charged with sexual assault and malicious wounding; Karen Burton, 46, of Chapmanville, is charged with malicious wounding, battery and assault during the commission of a felony; and Burton's daughter, Alisha Burton, 23, and Messer, 27, both of Chapmanville, are charged with assault during the commission of a felony and battery.

All six remain in custody in lieu of $100,000 bail each.

Betty Gregory, lawyer for Karen Burton, said Friday she intends to ask for a bond reduction for her client because the $100,000 cash bond is ``grossly inappropriate.''

The other lawyers representing the defendants did not immediately return telephone calls Sunday.

Because Williams is black and the defendants are white, some _ including church groups close to the Williams family _ want hate crimes charges filed, either at the state or federal level.

U.S. Attorney Charles T. Miller has said he doesn't currently plan to file civil rights charges, while Abraham said he may file new or amended charges in the days to come.