CHARLESTON — United States Attorney Booth Goodwin announced today that he is stepping down from office effective at the end of the year and returning to private law practice. Goodwin has been a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s office since January 2001 and has served as the presidentially appointed head of the office since May 2010. As a federal prosecutor, Goodwin personally secured convictions in virtually every type of case that his office handles, many of them matters of regional and national significance.
“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia,” Goodwin said. “The unparalleled success of this office during my tenure is a tribute to and a result of the extraordinary dedication of the lawyers, staff and law enforcement personnel with whom I have been privileged to serve,” Goodwin continued. “Their commitment to the safety and security of this nation and West Virginia has been and will continue to be an inspiration.”
Upon becoming United States Attorney, Goodwin focused on tackling West Virginia’s prescription drug and heroin crisis, holding corporate criminals accountable for putting workers at risk and polluting our water sources, prosecuting corrupt public officials, helping communities rebuild from the ravages of drugs and violence, and protecting children and the elderly.
During Goodwin’s tenure, his office has prosecuted hundreds of pill and heroin dealers, shuttered pill mills, and convicted doctors and pharmacists who dishonored their professions by promoting the opiate abuse scourge. But Goodwin also recognized early on that we cannot simply arrest and prosecute our way out of the prescription drug crisis. Goodwin organized and co-hosted with Governor Tomblin West Virginia’s first Summit on Prescription Drug Abuse in February 2011. The Summit laid out a plan to tackle the crisis through not just law enforcement, but also education and effective drug monitoring and prescribing practices, along with the expansion of treatment and recovery options. Goodwin has also worked with other United States Attorneys on a regional and national level to address the opiate crisis. Goodwin also has advanced a number of other initiatives aimed at tackling opiate abuse and its effects, including the “Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion” or “L.E.A.D.” program; expansion of access to the overdose reversing drug Naloxone; the development and launch of “The Call WV” smartphone app and the “makethecallwv.com” website, both designed to connect people struggling with addiction to resources and assistance; and public service announcements designed to promote resources available to those struggling with addiction and to raise awareness of the issue.
Within days after Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine exploded on April 5, 2010, Goodwin launched a criminal investigation into the disaster. Drawing on the investigative resources of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Labor, Goodwin’s team conducted an investigation that resulted in the conviction of five individuals, including the security chief at UBB, a mine superintendent at UBB, the president of a Massey mining group, and the former Chairman and CEO of Massey Energy—the highest-ranking executive ever convicted of a workplace safety crime. The investigation also resulted in a $220 million agreement with the company that took over Massey Energy after the disaster. That agreement required the company to fund an unprecedented $48 million mine safety and health research trust, invest $90 million in upgrading safety across all its operations, pay off all of Massey’s more than $31 million in outstanding mine safety fines, and provide a minimum of $1.5 million in restitution for each of the victims of the UBB disaster.
Following the January 2014 release of MCHM into the Elk River in Charleston, which contaminated the drinking water of more than 300,000 West Virginians, Goodwin led an investigation of those responsible for the spill. That investigation led to criminal convictions of Freedom Industries and six of its officials, including former Freedom presidents Gary Southern and Dennis Farrell. The incident marks one of the largest episodes of drinking water contamination in American history, and the convictions are among most significant ever for contamination of the public water supply.
During his tenure as a federal prosecutor, Goodwin tackled corruption throughout southern West Virginia. He headed probes leading to a host of convictions of corrupt public and business officials, including major investigations in Logan, Lincoln and Mingo counties. In recognition of his work in the Logan County probe, Goodwin was honored with a United States Department of Justice Director’s Award.
Goodwin partnered with police and community members to launch successful drug market intervention initiatives in the Fairfield area of Huntington and on the west side of Charleston. The efforts of all involved resulted in a substantial decrease in crime and increase in community quality of life. For example, in Huntington, with the assistance of the West Virginia National Guard and the West Virginia Department of Highways, 59 dilapidated structures that provided havens for drug activity were demolished. And as a result of one of the office’s prosecutions, a neighborhood convenience store that was a magnet for criminal activity in the Fairfield neighborhood was also demolished. The property is now in the hands of the city of Huntington and was repurposed for the benefit of the community.
Goodwin has also worked hard to protect our most vulnerable. He and his office prosecuted dozens of criminals who exploited children and the elderly. For example, Goodwin prosecuted and convicted the “Target Child Molester,” an individual who traveled from his home near Louisville, Kentucky, to the Target store in South Charleston to sexually assault a little girl. This criminal was found guilty of possessing child pornography and crossing a state line with the intent to engage in a sex act with a person under 12 years of age. He was sentenced to serve 25 years in federal prison and the rest of his life on supervised release. The sentence of lifetime supervised release was among the first of its kind in the country.
Recognizing that preventing crime—especially in our most vulnerable populations—is just as important as prosecuting it, Goodwin has frequently spoken at senior centers and conferences throughout the state to warn seniors about avoiding scams and guarding against crimes that stem from the opiate epidemic.
The horrific murders at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, were a national tragedy and an urgent call to action on the issue of school safety. After Sandy Hook, Goodwin organized a statewide Summit on West Virginia Safe Schools here in Charleston. Interest in the Summit was overwhelming, and Goodwin worked with participants to create an agenda for keeping our state’s schools safe. That agenda lays out 10 practical steps aimed at preventing and preparing for school violence. The agenda and more information can be found at www.wvsafeschools.org.
Even before Sandy Hook, Goodwin devoted time to visiting schools in his district to talk about bullying, Internet safety, and the dangers of prescription drug abuse. Joined by partners like U.S. Marshal John Foster, Adjutant General James Hoyer, and retired Charleston Police Lieutenant Chad Napier, Goodwin visited and presented at almost 40 schools.
Goodwin has also partnered with his colleague, U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld, to name four classes of Ambassadors for Justice, who are high school juniors from nearly every high school in West Virginia. These Ambassadors are exceptional young men and women who stand up to peer pressure and intervene if a classmate is making a destructive decision.
At the center of Goodwin’s efforts to make schools and students safer is the Handle with Care project. Under Handle with Care, police identify children who come into contact with a law enforcement operation—such as a domestic violence incident or drug raid—or who are themselves victims of abuse or neglect, and forward that information to the child’s school before the child arrives the next day. Armed with that information, the school can be ready to handle that child with care and intervene as necessary. This past March, Goodwin was joined by Governor Tomblin and Colonel Jay Smithers of the West Virginia State Police (WVSP) to announce the formation of the West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice under the WVSP. Since then, Goodwin has worked with the Center to expand Handle With Care across the state. In cooperation with the West Virginia Department of Education’s Project Aware grant, mental health care for our most vulnerable kids is being expanded. The goal is to have on-site mental health care at every school implementing Handle With Care across the state. More information on the project is available at www.handlewithcarewv.org.