PRINCETON — The Mercer County Commission is being asked to rescind a resolution honoring a recently deceased former county official who was also a convicted sex offender.
The commission passed a resolution Tuesday honoring John K. Rapp Sr., citing his service in the United States Air Force, his 22-year service with the West Virginia State Police, his role as police chief in Athens for 12 years and his service on the West Virginia Parole Board.
News of the award was published in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and aired on a local television station.
On Wednesday the commission was contacted by a Mercer County resident asking for the award to be rescinded based on Rapp’s conviction in 2000 on a sexual assault charge relating to his relationship with a 15-year-old girl.
Contacted individually by telephone by the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, commissioners Gene Buckner and Bill Archer said they would vote to rescind the resolution.
“Yes, I would, based on new evidence,” Buckner said. “I just didn’t know him. I had no idea. I didn’t know him at all.”
Archer also said he would vote to rescind the resolution. “Yes, I would, in light of the fact this has caused so much consternation.”
Both Buckner and Archer said they were unaware or did not recall Rapp’s conviction.
The county commission commonly honors past members for their service. Rapp served on the commission from 1990 to 1996. He passed away on Nov. 10 at age 79.
“During the Nov. 26 special meeting, the commission passed a resolution honoring the service of a former commissioner,” current commissioner Greg Puckett said. “As protocol, we drafted a resolution to honor servitude to Mercer County. We in no way condone negative personal behavior following that time of service.”
Rapp was charged in October 1999 on a 13-count indictment that included nine counts of third-degree sexual assault, two counts of burglary and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The charges stemmed from a relationship Rapp was having with a 15-year-old girl, according to Bluefield Daily Telegraph reports at the time.
Rapp pleaded guilty to one felony count of third-degree sexual assault and a misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in April 2000.
In July of 2000, Rapp, then 58, was sentenced by then Mercer County Circuit Court Judge David Knight to one to five years on the sexual assault charge.
During the sentencing hearing, Knight said Rapp’s actions split and destroyed relationships and divided the town of Athens. He also noted that he believed Rapp would attempt to continue the relationship with the victim.
“He tormented and harassed the family of the victim,” Knight said, as reported in the Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the hearing. “He came back 10 to 12 times. He climbed a ladder to go through a window to have sex with this 15-year-old girl. We know because we have all the love notes he wrote.”
Knight also noted that the first sexual encounter between Rapp and the girl was in the basement of a church they attended.
“Sex in the basement of the church was in complete disregard for the institutions we all live by,” Knight said during the hearing.
The girl’s mother also testified during the hearing, saying Rapp apologized with tears in his eyes only to break his promises to stay away from the victim.
“Rapp’s accomplishments do not matter,” the mother said. “He committed a crime and needs to be punished.”
Rapp also spoke during the sentencing hearing, saying he was “ashamed.”
“After years and years of law enforcement during which I did my very best to uphold and enforce the law, in the end I messed up,” Rapp said.
Buckner said the county commission’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Dec. 10.
— Contact Samantha Perry at email@example.com.