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Press Release

U.S Attorney Will Thompson Honors Crime Victims and Advocates at Operation Reach Out 2024 Opening Ceremony

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – United States Attorney Will Thompson presented the 2024 Excellence in Victim Advocacy and Justice Awards today during the Opening Ceremony for the 23rd Annual Operation Reach Out at the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse.

Operation Reach Out recognizes crime victims and those who serve them, and is sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia and the Operation Reach Out Committee.

The 2024 Excellence in Victim Advocacy and Justice Awards honorees are:

  • The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, for its Remote Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Outreach Project. This initiative allows victims in a growing number of counties to file petitions and participate in court hearings remotely, without having to be in the same building as the people from whom they are seeking protection. The entire Supreme Court - Chief Justice Tim Armstead, Justice Elizabeth D. Walker, Justice John A. Hutchison, Justice William R. Wooton and Justice C. Haley Bunn - and project officials attended today’s ceremony to accept the award.
  • The Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Lt. S.A. Sommers of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, Elizabeth Street of the West Virginia Department of Human Services, Child Protect of Mercer County, and Guardian Ad Litem Michael Magaan for their roles in the successful prosecution of Eric Shawn Phillips, 43, of Princeton. Phillips was sentenced on November 13, 2023, to 30 years in prison, to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release, and ordered to pay $7,200 in restitution for enticement of a minor.
  • Special Agent Brian Morris of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for his role in the successful prosecution of Larry Allen Clay Jr., 58, and Kristen Naylor-Legg, 30, of Gauley Bridge. Naylor Legg was sentenced on August 31, 2023, to nine years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a minor under the age of 18. Naylor-Legg provided her 17-year-old female relative to Clay so he could engage in sexual intercourse with the minor. At the time, Clay was an employee of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department and the Chief of Police for the Gauley Bridge Police Department. A federal jury convicted Clay on April 28, 2023, of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a minor via coercion, sex trafficking of a minor via coercion, and two counts of obstruction of justice. Clay awaits sentencing.
  • Mission West Virginia for promoting positive futures by working to ensure every child has a loving family and the knowledge to make positive choices for a healthier future. Mission West Virginia has been a longtime partner of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia as it recruits and trains foster families and provide support and services to relatives or kinship families caring for youth.
  • YWCA Charleston for its continuing commitment to communities throughout Kanawha, Clay and Boone counties. YWCA Charleston provides crucial services to domestic violence and trafficking victims, such as emergency and transitional housing, counseling and court advocacy. YWCA Charleston is also a longstanding and valued partner of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia.

The ceremony also featured a special Tree of Remembrance, upon which victims and survivors placed signed cards in memory of a loved one or for themselves as a survivor.

“As you look at the tree, we don’t just see pieces of paper. The toughest part of my job and my career, over the last 27 years, has been some of the photographs and videos that I’ve had to see,” said Thompson, a former Boone County Circuit Court judge. “Some of those, I don’t have to carry around in my wallet or anything of that nature. They are forever burned in my brain.”

Operation Reach Out aims to raise awareness of victims’ rights, educate the public about the various organizations that provide services to crime victims, and promote crime prevention and safety.

Operation Reach Out is held in coordination with National Crime Victims' Rights Week (NCVRW), which is being commemorated this year on April 21-27. The 2024 NCVRW theme is “How would you help? Options, services, and hope for crime survivors.”

The Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime, within the Office of Justice Programs, leads communities across the country in observing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Crime Victims’ Rights Week to bring greater sensitivity to the needs and rights of victims of crime.

More information about the Office of Justice Programs and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov. More information about Crime Victim’s Rights Week can be found at https://ovc.ojp.gov/program/national-crime-victims-rights-week/overview.

 A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Video of the ceremony is available on the office's YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNnPK9Bc00U

 

 

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Updated April 29, 2024

Topic
Community Outreach