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WVSU men’s basketball to compete in first Chris Paul HBCU Invitational

— By Taylor Kennedy

The West Virginia State Yellow Jackets men’s basketball team will join Winston-Salem State, Virginia Union, and Morehouse to compete in the first Chris Paul HBCU Invitational.

The two-day inaugural event will take place November 22-23 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

“It is a great opportunity for our program and players to enjoy,” said Yellow Jackets’ head coach Bryan Poore, who will enter his 23rd season at WVSU.

Eleven-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul has been a strong advocate for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) over the last few years. Paul partnered with the Basketball Hall of Fame to create the four-team event.

“Kudos to Chris Paul,” Poore said. “He continues to promote HBCUs. He is a guy that does not talk the talk, but rather he walks the walk. He has put together a great package for us. All expenses will be paid for through his foundation. It is going to be a fantastic event.”

The Yellow Jackets have not started their season on the road since 2014. West Virginia State had hosted the Earl Lloyd Classic representing the legacy of Lloyd. Poore sees this as a unique experience for his players this season.

“It is great for our bonding,” Poore noted. “There is going to be great competition, and that should be good as well. I like going away from home. It is a great opportunity for us to bond and be there for three to four days.”

HBCUs originated during the late 1860s with nine schools opening up. There are 107 HBCUs across the nation with 89 percent in the southern region of the country.

West Virginia State has always been recognized as an HBCU institution.

“I have been at this university for 22 years now. Every recruit I talk to, I ask them who the first African-American was to play in an NBA game,” Poore said. Nobody, in 22 years, has been able to answer that question. That has been kind of my flight to promote Earl Lloyd’s legacy, and what he did.”

Lloyd played for the Yellow Jackets from 1946-1950. He became the first African-American to play a game in the NBA in 1950 with the Washington Capitols. Lloyd also became the first African-American to play and start in a Finals game and serve as assistant and bench coach in the NBA.

Poore is the all-time winningest coach in West Virginia State history. He has recorded more than 325 career wins, including winning the WVIAC three times.

This event is something Poore has been looking forward to for quite some time.

“It will be right up there,” Poore said on where this moment will rank all-time for him. “For a true basketball junky, which all of our players are, what this will be. College Football and the NFL have their own, but there is one hall of fame for basketball. It is the Mecca for basketball. I like to travel with our team and get them experiences.”

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Congress passes bill reimbursing National Guard for post-Jan. 6 duties

Brig. Gen. William Crane says he’s very pleased Congress has passed a bill reimbursing the National Guard for activities to protect the U.S. Capitol after the Jan. 6 attacks.

Brig. Gen. William Crane

“We appreciate our entire congressional delegation being engaged in this and helping to get it over the finish line. We want to make sure we thank them for what they’ve done to help make it happen,” Crane said in a Thursday evening telephone interview.

The National Guard reimbursement was part of a broader, $2.1 billion bill that passed unanimously in the Senate and with only 11 House members voting against it.

Across the nation, the National Guard has said, the uncompensated expense for that duty amounts to $521 million. West Virginia’s share would be almost $6 million.

The Senate and House needed to pass the measure by the end of the week to assure upcoming National Guard training across the country wouldn’t be disrupted. The National Guard considers August 1 the deadline to assure the upcoming training can still happen.

Crane said he’s now confident the West Virginia National Guard can go ahead with August training exercises as planned.

“I think we’re going to be in good shape as far as getting our funding back,” Crane said. “Looks like we’ll be able to have our drills and keep our training going for our folks and do all the stuff we need to do to be ready.”

Among Crane’s concerns was commitment to Guard members who depend on payment from drills. “When I was a young private that monthly drill check meant a lot to me,” he said, believing that’s also the case for many Guard members now.

The congressional deal was announced Tuesday by U.S. Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in cooperation with the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

The $2.1 billion proposal also will secure funds for Capitol Police, more pandemic resources and increase support for Afghan refugees.

West Virginia senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito each are on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Each expressed support for the bill.

Our @USNationalGuard, @WVNationalGuard, and @CapitolPolice deserve our support. Glad to join my colleagues to pass this important funding that supports the brave men and women who sacrifice so much to keep us safe. https://t.co/UBJFHm8b0l

— Shelley Moore Capito (@SenCapito) July 29, 2021

Manchin stated earlier this week, “We must ensure our National Guardsmen and women are able to continue their training and drills, which is in jeopardy if we fail to reimburse them for their service after the January 6th attacks. This funding package is essential to the safety and security of our nation, and I am pleased my bipartisan colleagues came to a reasonable agreement to fund these priorities.”

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Big 12, ESPN at odds; SEC votes unanimously to invite Oklahoma, Texas

An unprecedented time in college athletics continues with tensions extremely high between the Big 12 Conference and ESPN. The league and its television provider are at odds ahead over the near-certain departures of Oklahoma and Texas to the Southeastern Conference.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby sent a cease and desist letter to ESPN President Burke Magnus on Wednesday claiming the network was attempting to cripple the Big 12 in an effort for Oklahoma and Texas to avoid paying a large sum to leave the league prior to the expiration of the grant of rights.

Bowlsby’s letter stated: I am aware that ESPN has also been actively engaged in discussions with at least one other conference regarding that conference inducing additional members of the Big 12 Conference to leave the Big 12 Conference.

Multiple national media outlets confirmed the aforementioned conference to be the American Athletic Conference, which began a 12-year contract with ESPN at the start of the 2020-2021 athletics season.

The Big 12’s deal with ESPN and Fox expires at the end of June 2025, but Texas and Oklahoma appear likely to bolt for the SEC before then. Losing any of the remaining eight Big 12 schools — West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas Tech, TCU and Oklahoma State — could cause the Big 12 to disband and the Longhorns and Sooners to escape a costly departure that would otherwise factor out to $35-40 million each year before 2025.

Bowlsby’s letter to Magnus went on to say: The Big 12 Conference demands that ESPN immediately cease and desist all actions that may harm the Conference and its members and that it not communicate with the Big 12’s existing members or any other NCAA Conference regarding the Big 12 Conference’s members, possible conference realignment, or potential financial incentives or outcomes related to possible conference realignment.

Magnus responded to Bowlsby on Thursday with a statement that read: The accusations you have made are entirely without merit. Apart from a single vague allegation that ESPN has been “actively engaged in discussions with at least one other” unnamed conference, which ESPN disputes, your letter consists entirely of unsubstantiated speculation and legal conclusions. To be clear, ESPN has engaged in no wrongful conduct, and thus, there is nothing to “cease and desist.”

OU and Texas requested an invitation to join the SEC on Tuesday, one day after notifying the Big 12 they would not renew the grant of media rights.

SEC presidents and chancellors voted 14-0 Thursday to invite Oklahoma and Texas to join the conference in all sports effective July 1, 2025.

Both schools will likely accept the invitations in the near future and seek SEC membership before that date, though Bowlsby has now made it known that won’t come cheap.

The SEC and ESPN struck a 10-year deal worth $300 million annually in December 2020.

Later Thursday, Bowlsby issued a statement through the Big 12 Conference, saying: Today’s SEC announcement reaffirms that these plans have been in the works with ongoing discussions between the parties and television partner for some time. We are disappointed these discussions went as far as they did without notice to, or inclusion of, other Big 12 members. Despite our concerns for the process and for the overall health of college athletics, we will do everything possible to make sure that the student-athletes at both universities enjoy an excellent experience throughout the remaining four years of their participation and competition in the Big 12 Conference.

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Justice appoints Huntington native as next Veterans Assistance Secretary

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Huntington native and Marshall University graduate has been appointed as the next Cabinet Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance (WVDVA).

On Thursday, Gov. Jim Justice appointed Edward A. “Ted” Diaz to the role to replace the late Dennis Davis.

Born and raised in Huntington, Diaz has spent the past 10 years working at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, most recently serving on the staff of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs at the VA Central Office in Washington, DC.

Edward A. “Ted” Diaz

According to Justice’s office, Diaz logged 20 years of active-duty service in the United States Navy before his retirement in 2007. He earned numerous awards and commendations, including the Navy & Marine Corps Medal for Heroism for his actions in support of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia, during the 1996 Civil War.

“Not only is this man a West Virginia native, but his credentials are off-the-charts,” Gov. Justice said in a release. “Ted Diaz has been an absolute superstar in his service to our country, and now, I’m incredibly excited to welcome him back home to continue his service on behalf of the State of West Virginia. I have all the confidence in the world that he will make us proud.”

In his coronavirus briefing on Thursday, Justice stated his high expectations for Diaz.

“His first priority is going to be able to take care of the great vets of West Virginia. The second priority is to use his knowledge and experience on a federal level to be able to recruit more veterans to West Virginia,” Justice said.

Diaz stated, “Being appointed to this critical role by Governor Justice is an honor and a privilege. I am excited to use the experience that I’ve gained working at the federal level, both to take care of the great Veterans that we already have in West Virginia and to recruit more Veterans into this state that I love so much.

“Under my guidance, the Department of Veterans Assistance will also strive to end Veterans homelessness in West Virginia, promote mental health awareness and initiatives, and help combat the growing problem of Veteran suicide,” Diaz continued. “I look forward to taking on the responsibility of addressing the needs of West Virginia’s Veterans.”

Diaz is the son of the late Dr. Salvador and Eleanor (Cline) Diaz. He is married to fellow Huntington native and Marshall alumna Julia (Narcise) Diaz and has four children.

Diaz will step in for former WVDVA Secretary Dennis Davis, who passed away unexpectedly in January.

“We miss so much Dennis Davis,” Justice said during the briefing. “I cannot tell you enough what a great man and great job he did. Dennis would be really proud, really really proud of this replacement.”

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Senator asks Justice to resign; gets a response suggesting he’s mad his son wasn’t appointed

About 8:45 a.m. Wednesday, state Senator Randy Smith had a polite letter delivered to Gov. Jim Justice, suggesting it would be best for the governor to resign.

By 4:13 p.m., Smith received a response in his email. The letter signed by the governor didn’t address the issues Smith had raised. Instead, it suggested Smith was nursing a grudge that his grown son, R. Scott Smith, had not been named earlier this year to the board of the West Virginia Economic Development Agency.

Now Smith, R-Tucker, is beside himself with anger.

“I was expecting retaliation but nothing like this. I never thought he would stoop low enough to try to drag my family into it,” Smith said today.

Smith’s prior complaints about the governor are in three categories.

He is among lawmakers who contend the governor should not have had the sole say-so on priorities for spending millions of dollars of federal relief during the pandemic. And Smith has objected to the current use of federal relief dollars for the vaccination lottery prizes distributed each week by the governor.

Most recently, Smith has focused Justice’s financial issues, particularly IRS liens against prominent businesses owned by the governor. The liens indicate the IRS has concluded payroll taxes were collected but not passed on by entities such as The Greenbrier Hotel Corp. and The Greenbrier Clinic.

Smith, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, said his constituents have expressed concern about those issues too.

“I just wrote a letter and sent it to him, asking him to consider resigning because of all the stuff going on in his personal life and he wasn’t able to put the state of West Virginia as his top priority,” Smith said today. ” I didn’t get smart or anything. I just asked him to consider resigning.”

Smith wrote, “With headlines appearing nearly every day outlining massive, widespread legal and financial problems encumbering nearly every single business entity of yours, I find myself very concerned that you no longer have the ability to give being governor your full attention. I don’t believe anybody in your situation could.

“Therefore, I am respectfully asking you to consider resigning as governor of the great state of West Virginia. While I appreciate your service and your vision for making West Virginia the best it can be, I do not believe it’s possible to achieve the best for every single man, woman and child in this state if we do not have a governor who can fully focus on tackling our challenges.”

Smith anticipated the governor wouldn’t be happy about his letter. But he was surprised to see the response focus on his son’s consideration for appointment to the state Economic Development Authority board earlier this year.

“I felt it was a very unprofessional letter coming from the governor. I figured there would be some kind of pushback because I’ve always been very vocal on issues with the governor,” Smith said.

R. Scott Smith was considered for the state Economic Development Authority but not selected. Randy Smith says his only role was to discourage his son from having any role in the Justice administration.

Scott Smith said today that earlier this spring his personal financial adviser was asked to brainstorm some people who might be good fits for the EDA board. Smith, chief executive of an industrial electrical company headquartered in Terra Alta and doing business in a multi-state region, came up as a suggestion.

Smith said he brought up concern about whether his father’s position in the Senate would pose any kind of conflict, but he continued through early stages of the process, lasting just a few days in March. “That was the last I heard,” he said.

Gov. Jim Justice

Then came the letter from the Governor’s Office suggesting the non-appointment is at the root of Randy Smith’s criticism.

“It has been brought to my attention that you may harbor some bitterness toward me for not appointing your son to the WVEDA board,” according to the letter with Governor Justice’s signature.

The letter touted the current makeup of the EDA, noted that the governor has to make hard decisions and alluded to successes in handling the pandemic.

But, the letter concluded, “I hope and trust that the decision to appoint others to the EDA board, rather than your son, will not interfere in our working together over the coming years to make our state the best it can possibly be.”

Randy Smith has been a vocal critic of Governor Justice for several years, notably upset about the governor’s handling of road repairs in 2019 and then joining other senators in publicly expressing no confidence in the governor that same year.

This past June 7, during a special session focused on allocating millions of dollars for road repairs before the end of the fiscal year, Smith got up and made a floor speech with a blitz of criticism about the governor. At the top of the list was Justice’s Wednesday trips around the state to bestow vaccination lottery prizes.

“All of a sudden he thinks he’s a gameshow host or something, Bob Barker or Pat Sajak, spending the CARES money on lotteries and giving out gifts for the vaccine,” Smith said. 

Smith’s speech continued by saying the Senate should push back. “It upsets me that we haven’t done anything to rein this governor in,” he said.

“We cannot continue to let this go on for three more years and let him be the bully on the block. We shouldn’t be getting bullied, shouldn’t be getting threatened. My district after this speech will probably never see a dime.”

Smith today said the drama over the letter is just the latest.

“I know he was hoping by this letter that I would back down,” the senator said. “This is a statement to me that if you don’t back down, I’m going to drag your family into this.”

Smith concluded, “I’m not going to let it go. I’m not going to back down. He’s opened up a can of worms that he’s going to wish he wouldn’t have opened up before it’s all over with. It’s very unprofessional, very unprofessional from a governor.”

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Interim GOP chairman says he won’t pursue open seat in House of Delegates

Interim state GOP chairman Mark Harris wants to end the talk that he may be appointed to a House of Delegate seat.

Mark Harris

Speculation circulated in recent days that Harris might be considered for a seat that will be vacated with the resignation of Jeffrey Pack, R-Raleigh, who is taking a job with DHHR.

In a text this afternoon, Harris wrote “I will not submit my name for an open seat resulting from Jeff Pack’s impending resignation. I love serving as chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party and we are fully focused on victory in 2022 and 2024.”

Reached by telephone and asked if he had any more to say, Harris said the statement summed up his position.

Harris was picked in March to fill the unexpired term of GOP chairwoman Melody Potter. He had served as chairman of the Raleigh County GOP and continued in that role until recently.

Harris earlier served as chief of staff at the Beckley VA Hospital, starting in 2017, and was responsible for clinical operations there and and at community clinics in Greenbrier and Mercer counties.

Among those hired at the hospital at the time was Dr. Jonathan Yates, who is now serving a prison sentence for the sexual abuse of multiple veterans who had sought medical treatment at the hospital. An investigation into the sexual assaults opened in September 2019. In November 2019, Harris was dismissed.

His name has circulated in recent days as a possible replacement for Pack in the seat serving Raleigh County communities.

Brandon Steele

Another Raleigh County delegate, Republican Brandon Steele, went on radio today and was leery about Harris in multiple roles.

“We have several very well-qualified candidates interested in this position that I think would be outstanding members,” said Steele, chairman of the Government Organization Committee, speaking earlier today on “The Tom Roten Morning Show.”

“I think the selection of Mark would cause irreparable harm between the Legislature and the governor. If Mark truly did care about the party he would pull his name out of this.”

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Three Guys Before The Game – A Visit With Quarterback Nicco Marchiol (Episode 299)

Nicco Marchiol was born into the sport of football.  His dad played in the NFL and two brothers played collegiately

However, Nicco broke the family’s linebacker tradition to become one of the nation’s most highly regarded quarterbacks. This December, he’ll sign at West Virginia University.  Marchiol is one of the shining stars of a WVU recruiting class that’s ranked among the best in school history. 

On this episode you’ll hear Nicco’s story and how his love of the game and family led him to Morgantown. 

The “Guys” return next week with the latest on conference news and a few surprises. 

Three Guys Before The Game is brought to you by Burdette Camping Center  WV Game Changer  and Komax Business Systems Don’t forget to check out Three Guys merchandise.

Never miss an episode, subscribe below.

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Murder charges updated in Taylor County case

GRAFTON, W.Va. — Prosecutors in Taylor County have refiled charges against the Marion County man being held in the June death of Grafton area resident Tyler Poston.

Joshua Price (WVRJA)

The new criminal complaint, filed Thursday, includes additional information in the case against Joshua Price, 29, of Farmington.

The original criminal complaint included several technical errors. The charges were dismissed Thursday and then refiled quickly against Price.

He allegedly shot Poston, 26, multiple times. Poston’s body was found along U.S. Route 119 near the border of Taylor and Monongalia counties.

According to the updated criminal complaint, investigators allege Price was in a relationship with the mother of Poston’s child and the relationship was contentious. Investigators said a Harrison County Family Court judge had ruled Price could not be around the child. Investigating troopers also allege Price attempted to frame Poston for possession of child pornography.

Tyler Poston
Photo/TCSD

The complaint also says members of the Price family told investigators Price had .22 caliber pistol that he had borrowed from his grandmother. Investigators said they matched shell casings recovered from the crime scene and at Price’s residence to the weapon.

Documents also show Price is the owner of the West Side Trading Post Pawn Shop at 115 Jackson Street in Fairmont. During a search of the shop, police said they found pieces of a .22 caliber magazine that had been destroyed and a box containing driver’s licenses from past customers.

Investigators said a 2016 driver’s license was found at the scene that did not belong to anyone associated with the victim or suspect.

Price has been charged with first-degree murder. He is being held in North Central Regional Jail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 10.

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W.Va. identifies 100 cases of delta variant, and Justice proposes 3 non-mask strategies

As the number of delta variant cases in West Virginia jumped to 100, Gov. Jim Justice said his administration must do more.

The governor said that does not include a new mask mandate or increased restrictions like a shutdown.

But he said officials will increase emphasis on accounting for personal protective equipment and hospital beds, study whether people who have been vaccinated need a booster and bump up covid-19 briefing schedule back to three days a week.

“I think I can see the enemy coming, and I really am hesitant to shoot or not. But I know for sure I can see the enemy coming. At least I think I can,” Justice said today. “The enemy is this delta variant.”

Justice said he decided to take some actions after being asked to meet in person with Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus response coordinator, and James Hoyer, who leads the state’s multi-agency response team.

As Marsh and Hoyer laid out the risks of inaction, Justice said at today’s livestreamed briefing, his initial response was “Excuse me, I’ve got to go pee and throw up.”

The delta variant of covid-19 is considered far more infectious than previous strains. Unvaccinated people are most at risk, but those who are vaccinated may still come down with covid, although the worst of the symptoms are generally suppressed.

Dr. Clay Marsh

“While vaccines are really important and work really well, the delta variant can be present in such high concentrations that people can get sick and transmit the disease to people who are fully vaccinated,” Marsh said today.

West Virginia’s numbers have been going in the wrong direction.

The state recorded 1,910 covid-19 cases on Wednesday. Last Wednesday, that number was 1,225.

The color-coded county alert map has gone from the safety of green to more and more yellow and gold, signaling elevated levels. One county, Webster, is now red.

Hospitalizations from covid are now at 133, way down from the peak of a few months ago but on the rise. Cases requiring ICU admission (54) and ventilators (20) are also increasing.

Meanwhile, vaccine rates have leveled off, despite the governor’s vaccine lottery efforts or his stark warnings that more people could die.

Fewer than half of West Virginians, 49 percent, have been fully vaccinated. Numbers are best in higher age groups and not great among younger people.

“It’s not time to be running through the streets in a panic,” Justice said. But “This thing the next couple of weeks is probably going to get worse.”

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention this week advised even vaccinated people to mask up indoors if you live in a place with “substantial” or “high” coronavirus transmission. The advice for the unvaccinated all along has been face coverings in public indoor places.

But Justice said now is not the time to reinstitute a mask mandate in those communities.

“Masks aren’t going to help us a whole heck of a lot from the way we see it,” Justice said, noting the viral load of the delta variant is much higher than other strains.

So he proposed other options instead:

Taking stock of PPE, hospital beds

The governor and his advisers said the state will double down on assessing numbers of personal protective equipment and hospital beds.

James Hoyer

Hoyer, former adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard, spoke about this in military terms in relation to Justice.

“We need to understand what we’re doing is to give him as the commander a better focus on what’s out in front of us and what we need to do to maintain a level of effort to achieve those objectives,” he said.

Hoyer acknowledged that these are already counted on a regular basis but suggested the count will be more urgent now.

“It’s a matter of emphasis from the commander as well as frequency. Because the governor sees a storm on the horizon, he’s directed us to increase the frequency,” he said.

Justice said the heightened emphasis will be useful.

“We continually assess our PPE and our staffing and our beds, but when you see an enemy on the horizon you absolutely go back and doublecheck,” he said.

Booster Battlefield Assessment

This was also cast in military terms.

“We’re going to move on this immediately,” Justice said.

Justice and his advisers envision a voluntary program to assess antibody levels among older residents who have been vaccinated for about six months.

That could help determine whether those people will need booster shots of vaccine.

Marsh said the program would be conducted by a lab company that was already partnered with the state during the pandemic.

There were questions about whether those kind of broad health assessments might be better led by federal entities such as the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Marsh said West Virginia can contribute to that knowledge.

“We think we can gather very valuable information,” Marsh said.

More briefings

In recent months, Justice has led livestreamed briefings about the covid response just two days a week, usually Tuesday and Thursday.

Just last week, the governor was asked if that number continues to be truly necessary.

Now Justice said the situation calls for increasing the briefing schedule to Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“We need to have the briefings,” he said. “We need to be here right now.”

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Williams says he will ‘always be grateful’ for the day in court for Huntington, Cabell County

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Mayor Steve Williams says he will always be grateful for the city’s and Cabell County’s day in court when it comes to the opioid epidemic.

Closing arguments in the trial between the City of Huntington and Cabell County and the ‘Big 3’ drug distributors wrapped up Wednesday afternoon. The attorneys for the plaintiffs laid out a case focused on 81 million opioid pills sent into a community of fewer than 100,000 people by AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.

Appearing on Thursday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline,’ Williams reacted to the finish of the 40-day trial.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams

“I just felt a sense of gratitude that we did finally have our day in court. There was a great deal of anticipation for when we walked in the first day and we had opening arguments. Yesterday (Wednesday), we put the hay in the barn,” he said.

Lead plaintiffs attorney Paul Farrell told MetroNews on Wednesday that he also felt relief. Farrell, Anne Kearse, Anthony Majestro and other attorneys put witnesses on the stand that detailed 1,100 overdose deaths from 2002-2008 and nearly 6,500 overdoses from 2015-2020.

U.S. District Judge David Faber has now given both sides three weeks to submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. He may issue a decision in the case by the fall.

“Right now, it’s in Judge Faber’s hands. I have a great deal of respect for him and I’m looking forward to hearing on the ruling on the judge,” Williams said. “Who knows how long it’s going to be but now we wait.”

.@HuntingtonMayor joins @DaveWilsonMN to discuss the opioid trial in Charleston. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nm85Y pic.twitter.com/t8fxhgBZkz

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) July 29, 2021

MetroNews previously reported that the attorneys for AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, used their allotted time for closing arguments Tuesday and Wednesday to once again deny they contributed to the epidemic.

During opening statements, which took place on May 3, the ‘Big 3’ distributors all said the federal Drug Enforcement Agency controls the supply of drugs and their instructions were followed. The defense also pointed at budget decisions made by the City of Huntington to cut funding for law enforcement and a drug task force.

On Wednesday, a defense attorney said Huntington and Cabell County spend less than $150,000 a year on drug treatment but they are seeking $2.5 billion in damages, MetroNews reported.

Williams said the community must continue to rally around each other, even with this trial in the books.

“It’s a perilous time but we also know that through perilous time comes opportunity. We are determined in Huntington and throughout West Virginia to take advantage of this opportunity. We can show the nation and the world, here is how you overcome this scourge,” Williams said.

“There is a softness in my heart for those who are fighting the epidemic of addiction but also a hardness of heart that anybody who is ever thinking that they are going to be coming in and destroying our community, then we will do everything in our power to put them down.”

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