By Sarah Richardson
Former attorney E. Lavoyd Morgan pled no contest to the charge of negligent homicide according to a criminal judgment order filed in Greenbrier County Magistrate Court on Jan. 14. The charge stems from a vehicle crash that occurred last year on Apr. 3, 2020, where Morgan, who was allegedly under the influence of alcohol, drove his Dodge pickup truck off the side of Ronceverte Hill and the passenger, Amelia Braden (Winsby), was ejected from the vehicle and succumbed to injuries she received.
On Mar. 20, 2020, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals temporarily suspended Morgan’s law license after reviewing a 22-count Statement of Charges that were considered by a Hearing Panel Subcommittee of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board. The charges ranged from dishonesty, misappropriation of client funds, mishandling cases, and more. Documents state that Morgan had committed 134 instances of violating 19 different Rules of Professional Conduct.
On Oct. 16, 2020, the Supreme Court of Appeals ordered that Morgan’s law license be annulled and that he issue refunds to multiple entities, as well as pay for the costs of the court proceedings.
According to the criminal complaint regarding the Apr. 3 accident, C.R. Smith of the Greenbrier Valley Sheriff’s Office was driving north on U.S. 219 and drove over a piece of plastic in the roadway. He stopped to remove the debris, and while doing so he noticed Morgan’s wrecked truck over the hill. Smith then made contact with Morgan, who stated that “he was ok, but need to find a female that was with him.” Smith asked Morgan if he was drunk, to which he said yes.
The complaint notes that Winsby was located deceased approximately 100 yards from the vehicle.
Other officers on scene noted they “could smell a strong presence of an alcoholic beverage coming from (Morgan’s) breath, he had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and had trouble keeping his balance while standing and walking.”
Morgan repeatedly refused to take any type of BAC test, and officers had to gain a search warrant to take Morgan to Greenbrier Valley Medical Center for a blood test.
Morgan was arrested and originally charged with DUI causing death and was held in Southern Regional Jail before being released on bond. He was placed on home confinement as part of the terms and conditions of the bond.
Due to Morgan’s history as a lawyer practicing within Greenbrier County, local magistrates were recused from presiding over the case. A special prosecutor, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Santa “Sonny” Boninsegna Jr. of the Wyoming County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, was assigned to the case. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Kelley of the Pocahontas County Magistrate Court presided over the hearing.
Morgan’s plea agreement states, “The State of WV and the defendant along with Defense counsel have reached a plea agreement in which the defendant, Mr. Morgan, will enter a plea of guilty to the charge of misdemeanor negligent homicide under WV Code 17C-5-1 with the State recommendation that the defendant be sentenced to a term of 12 months in the custody of the Regional Jail Authority. The sentence to be suspended and Mr. Morgan to be placed on home confinement for a period of 12 months being given credit for time served. Mr. Morgan will complete the substance abuse requirements through the county Day Report Center with no community service required.”
The plea agreement also stated, “The State has spoken with the mother of the victim who will be satisfied with the resolution of the charge as well.”
Magistrate Kelley accepted the plea on Jan 4, 2021.
Boninsegna stated that, “The State agrees with the entering of a no contest or Kennedy vs Frazier plea in the above styled matter. The State did further agree that any substance abuse treatment shall be after the determination of the need for treatment by the Greenbrier County Day Report Officers.”
It was determined that Morgan will receive credit for 286 days of time already spent incarcerated and served on home confinement, he will participate in substance abuse treatment if recommended by Greenbrier County Day Report, and he was ordered to pay costs and fees of $170.25.