Governor W. W. Barron Bribery Conspiracy Trial

Charleston Gazette
March 30, 1971

Barron Pleads Guilty; Perry, Brown Also Cited in Charges

By Michael L. White
Staff Writer

Former Gov. William Wallace Barron, Charleston lawyer Robert G. Perry and Elkins lawyer Bonn Brown were charged in a federal indictment Monday with conspiracy, bribery and obstruction of justice.

Barron entered a guilty plea to the charges against him. He was immediately sentenced to 25 years. The sentence will be reconsidered within 90 days and could possibly be reduced.

The charges stem from the alleged payment of $25,000 to the foreman of a 1968 jury that acquitted Barron of bribery conspiracy charges. Brown was convicted along with three other defendants during the trial. Perry served as Barron's attorney.

The sealed indictment, returned last Wednesday by a federal grand jury meeting in Charleston, was opened Monday by U. S. Judge John A. Field when Barron appeared in court to enter a plea on a previous indictments.

The earlier indictment had charged Barron, his wife, Opal, and Ralph E. Buckalew, the jury foreman, with bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The indictment was returned on Feb. 20. Buckalew immediately pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His sentence comes up for reconsideration by Judge Field within the next 60 days. Both Barron and his wife had deferred entering a please until Monday.

The new indictment, in addition to naming Brown, Perry and Barron, lists Buckalew, Mrs. Barron and Buckalew's wife, Alice, as coconspirators but not as defendants.

U. S. Atty. W. Warren Upton dismissed the earlier indictment insofar as it pertained to the former Governor and Mrs. Barron, but not as to Buckalew.

The new indictment charges that a $25,000 bribe was paid to Buckelew [sic] to influence the 11 other jury members.

He was elected jury foreman during the 1968 trial of Barron, Brown, Burl A. Sawyers, Vincent J. Johnkoski and Alfred Schroath.

All had been charged with bribery and conspiracy in connection with alleged kickbacks while Barron was governor. At the time Sawyers was state road commissioner and Johnkoski was deputy commissioner. Schroath, a Clarksburg auto dealer, died last summer.

Later, rumors began to circulate that a member of the jury has been bribed to acquit Barron.

Both Perry and Brown are alleged to have maintained large roles in the alleged bribery.

Brown is charged with having provided at least $10,000 of the alleged $25,000 bribe. Perry is alleged to have delivered the $25,000 to Barron for transfer to Buckalew.

After hearing the second indictment Gov. Barron immediately entered a guilty plea.

Showing little emotion, and with his hands clasped firmly behind his back, Barron told the court he was guilty in in [sic] substance to each charge. He explained to the court that in some cases dates mention in the indictment were incorrect.

As Barron stood before the court Mrs. Barron sat quietly, firmly holding the hand of her attorney, Robert H. C. Kay. She also showed little emotion as she was told charges against her were dismissed. At times, as the indictment was being read by Judge Field, she would turn to Kay asking for an explanation of the charges.

After accepting Barron's plea Judge Field was asked by Barron's attorneys that the former governor be sentenced immediately for a classification study.

Attorney Martin Bowles told the court that Barron was fully aware that if the request was granted he would receive the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, a $90,000 fine or both. However, under the federal classification study program Barron's sentence would be up for reconsideration at the completion of the study or in 90 days.

After Field accepted this request, Bowles then handed the court Barron's medical records saying, "This man isn't well. He has a lot of complications. I further move that he be transported to a federal prison immediately."

Field then ordered Barron to the custody of the U. S. attorney general and directed Gordon Coen, chief deputy U. S. marshal to immediately transfer Barron to Springfield Federal Medical Center in Springfield, Mo. It was Coen who transported Buckalew to a federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., immediately following his conviction.

Perry appeared at 1:30 p.m. before Judge Field to answer the indictment against him.

Following a brief discussion of the charge against him Perry was given until May 3 to file pre- plea motions.

Assistant U. S. Atty. Robert King asked the court to put Perry on $100,000 bond.

However, Judge Field said he didn't feel the high bond would be necessary. Bone was set at 420,000. Perry was given 24 hours in which to raise the bond or provide a $2,000 cash bond.

Upton said Brown had been informed of the indictment against him earlier Monday. He is scheduled to answer the charges at 1:30 p.m. today before Judge Field.

Government and Politics