A new defense attorney may be appointed to represent Earl Stewart, who was arrested last month for allegedly stealing the wallet of his former attorney, Ohio County Chief Public Defender Shayne Welling.
Stewart, 57, of Wheeling has remained in the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville since being booked Jan. 29 on the felony charge of entering without breaking. He had yet to post $10,00 bond late Friday.
Following Stewart's arraignment in Ohio County Magistrate Court, during which he filed as a financial indigent, Mark Panepinto was appointed to serve as defense counsel. The Ohio County Prosecutor's Office on Friday expressed its desire to have Panepinto removed from the case, citing a conflict of interest.
Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Turak said the conflict "has to do with a witness." Because the state's motion had not yet been formally filed in Ohio County Circuit Court, Turak did not say if the conflict was due to Panepinto's relationship to a witness in another case, or if Panepinto himself was the witness.
According to court documents, Stewart walked into the Board of Trade Building on 12th Street on Jan. 23, went to the Public Defender's Office on the fifth floor and stole Welling's wallet off of his desk.
Stewart reportedly fled the building after secretaries found him in Welling's office. They were able to identify Stewart to police later, as the Public Defender's Office has defended him in previous criminal cases, many of which were theft related.
Prior to walking out of the lobby doors, however, Stewart allegedly took $70 in cash from the wallet and dumped the wallet in a plant. He then reportedly went across the street to the Metropolitan Citi Grille and ate a meal he purchased with the money he allegedly stole from Welling.
Video surveillance reportedly shows Stewart stash the wallet in the plant in the building's lobby, where it was discovered later that day by Assistant Public Defender Angelica Kokiko.