Exactly what happened at the Florida home of West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Director Stephen McDaniel’s ex-wife probably will never be known by the public.
What we do know is that the woman has decided not to press assault charges against McDaniel. We also know the authorities in St. Johns County, Florida, are not pursuing the matter any longer.
And we know that McDaniel’s explanation was persuasive enough that Gov. Jim Justice refused to accept his offer to resign from the DNR post.
Police were summoned to the St. Augustine home of McDaniel’s ex-wife on the night of April 6. What she told them initially led them to file a misdemeanor battery charge against him. “The victim believed the defendant was going to kill her,” states an arrest report.
Then, it was reported McDaniel and St. Johns County authorities had entered into a “deferred prosecution agreement” for a one-year program. Essentially, good behavior during that period would have resulted in the charge being dropped.
This week, however, it was learned a court had ordered the charge be dropped and erased from Daniel’s record. Prosecutors explained the charge had been the result of “erroneously filed” information. The deferred prosecution agreement has been eliminated, too. As far as Florida is concerned, it will be as if the case never existed.
Last week, in telling the governor’s staff about the situation, McDaniel offered to resign. After hearing about the case, Justice decided to keep him on at the DNR.
Also this week, McDaniel’s attorney in Florida, Terry Shoemaker, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail, “Obviously, this is a family matter … They’re trying to put it all behind them and move forward …”
So there you have it. All concerned seem willing to forget about the night of April 6.
Calls for McDaniel to resign, including some from legislators, were understandable given initial reports on the incident. New information may prompt some to decide he deserves a second chance.
So be it — with the proviso that McDaniel’s behavior going forward must be absolutely above reproach. Justice should make that abundantly clear to the DNR director.