Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

August 3, 2012

Voluntary manslaughter: Flack pleads guilty

PRINCETON — A Mercer County man pleaded guilty Thursday morning to voluntary manslaughter and two other charges relating to the January 2011 murder of a Bluefield High School student.

Joseph Flack Jr., 44, of Bluefield appeared in Mercer County Circuit Court before Judge Omar Aboulhosn and pleaded guilty to the felony charges of voluntary manslaughter, daytime burglary and conspiracy.

Flack was among the people who were arrested after the Jan. 29, 2011, murder of 17-year-old Matthew Flack of Bluefield.

Voluntary manslaughter carries a determinate sentence of three to 15 years imprisonment. Daytime burglary has a possible sentence of one to 10 years in prison, and conspiracy has a term of one to five years in prison; both the sentences are indeterminate.

A judge sets the length of determinate sentences, Aboulhosn said. Parole boards determine how long a person remains in prison when there is an indeterminate sentence.

Aboulhosn asked Flack’s attorneys, Harold Wolfe and Jay Williams, about how they prepared their client for Thursday’s hearing. Flack, who is blind, said he lost his eyesight in 2000.

Wolfe replied that they had met with Flack on numerous occasions both in Mercer County and at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver. Before the plea hearing, they spent three and a half hours preparing him and read every line of the plea agreement documents to him.

“He’s an intelligent man,” Wolfe said.

When Aboulhosn asked Flack about the extent of his education, Flack replied that he finished the 10th grade, but later returned to school and earned a GED certificate. Aboulhosn questioned Flack extensively about whether he understood the ramifications of pleading guilty to each of the three offenses.

“Based on what I have told you so far, do  you want to plead guilty?” Aboulhosn asked.

“Yes, sir,” Flack replied.

Joseph Flack Jr. was indicted on charges including first-degree murder, burglary and conspiracy. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kelli Harshbarger outlined the case the prosecution would have presented if Flack had gone to trial.

Joseph Flack Jr. had waited in a car outside the Magnolia Street, Bluefield home of Matthew Flack while three other individuals entered it and tried to rob the occupants. Joseph Flack Jr. had denied taking part in planning the robbery, but also said he had known about the plan and did not try to warn anybody, Harshbarger said. Witnesses would have testified that he did take part in the planning.

Wolfe said that he and Williams believed that the plea agreement was in the best interests of their client.

“I’d like for you to accept it,” Joseph Flack Jr. replied when Aboulhosn asked him whether he wanted to go ahead with the pleas. Flack stood and replied “guilty” when asked how he pleaded to each of the three charges.

Aboulhosn granted a defense motion for a presentencing investigation. Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 29.

Three other men are now either serving prison time or facing prison in connection with Matthew Flack’s murder. A Mercer County jury found Brandon Flack, 21, of Pulaski, Va., guilty April 26 of first-degree murder with mercy, first-degree armed robbery and conspiracy. He will be eligible for parole in 26 years. An accomplice, Jasmen Montgomery, 27, of Pulaski, Va., pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. He was sentenced in November 2011 to life imprisonment with mercy; he will be eligible for parole in 15 years, but parole is not guaranteed.

One suspect who was a juvenile when the murder occurred, Jacob Thomas, 19, of Pulaski, Va., has agreed to plead guilty to the same charges as Joseph Flack Jr., according to Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash. Thomas is currently at the Southern Regional Jail. He is scheduled to undergo an evaluation at the Anthony Correctional Center, and a report is expected by October.쇓

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