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Ellamore fire chief pleads guilty to destruction of property

BUCKHANNON – The chief of the Ellamore Volunteer Fire Department who went on voluntary leave after he was indicted for arson pleaded guilty to destruction of property in Upshur County Magistrate Court Thursday.

Jamie L. Pugh, 43, of Buckhannon, entered into a plea agreement with the state and Upshur County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan S. Hinkle in magistrate court July 15.

According to court documents, Pugh pleaded guilty to a lesser charge – removal, injury to or destruction of property, a misdemeanor – in front of Magistrate Alan Suder in exchange for Hinkle agreeing to dismiss the first-degree arson charge, a felony that Pugh had been indicted on in January 2020.

The penalty for a conviction of removal, injury to or destruction of property is a fine of up to $500, confinement in jail for not more than a year, or both, according to West Virginia Code.

However, according to the plea deal, following his guilty plea to the destruction of property charge, the state agreed an appropriate penalty would be one year in jail to be suspended in lieu of two years of unsupervised probation. Pugh, who was represented by attorney Jim Hawkins, was placed on two years of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay the $500, in addition to $170.25 in court costs and fees, for a total of $670.25.

The plea deal states that Pugh “must resign from any and all memberships or involvement with any fire department from this date forward or the state reserves the right to set aside this charge and agreement, which shall then become null and void and the original charge of arson may be prosecuted at the sole discretion of the prosecuting attorney.”

Court documents note that while Pugh can’t be a member “of any fire department from this date (July 15) forward insofar as he is rendering assistance or responding to fires or other emergency calls,” he “can be involved with fire department activities other than firefighting and emergency response.”

The new complaint filed by Hinkle in Magistrate Court alleges that on March 30, 2019, Pugh “did intentionally cause fire to damage real property belonging to Ralph Parsons” located in the 6000 block of Little Sand Run Road, “thereby causing a loss to the victim of less than $2,500.”

The original criminal complaint filed against Pugh in November 2019 accused him of setting fire to the lands of another on March 30, 2019. He was indicted by an Upshur County grand jury in January 2020 for first-degree arson and has since been on voluntary leave from the EVFD, according to a previous story.

The case was set to go to trial Wednesday, July 21, and several subpoenas had been issued and returned, according to documents in the Upshur County Circuit Clerk’s Office.

When reached by phone Monday, Pugh said, “I accepted the plea deal because I’ve got a wife and two kids, and if I went to trial and got convicted, my wife and kids were going to lose everything, so I had to protect my family.”

“In the long run, the community is the [party] that’s going to suffer, because people aren’t beating down doors to respond to fire calls,” he said.

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