CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday called for an investigation into campaign ads that accuse him of freeing a convicted murderer from prison early.
Justice’s reelection campaign filed a complaint with the secretary of state saying Republican primary challenger Woody Thrasher’s ads are based on information that has been proven false.
The ads criticize Justice for releasing the man as part of a deal to parole dozens of inmates during the coronavirus pandemic. But just hours after the first commercial aired, state corrections officials admitted they mistakenly listed the man among those released under the deal. They said he was actually let out for unrelated reasons, after doing his time and then serving 60 days for an alleged probation violation.
“Woody Thrasher continues to run misleading ads to the people of West Virginia, even after independent government agencies have said he is wrong,” said Roman Stauffer, the governor’s campaign manager.
Thrasher’s campaign said the governor is trying to “cover up” the facts around the inmate’s release.
“Jim Justice is so incapable of telling the truth and accepting any responsibility for his actions that he’s scrambling to find any way to cover up the mess he’s put us all in by releasing violent criminals and child predators,” Ann Ali, campaign manager for Thrasher, said in a statement.
Thrasher has heavy criticized Justice since announcing his candidacy. He was previously the governor’s commerce secretary but resigned after numerous complaints about the management of a flood recovery program.
The man, 35-year-old Michael David Day, was convicted of killing a homeless Vietnam veteran as a teenager. He was sentenced to life in prison but was paroled in 2017 after a U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled it unconstitutional for juveniles to receive mandatory life sentences. Day was jailed again in January on an alleged probation violation and released March 27.
A spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office said it does not comment on investigations.