Little Frankie, witness in Rich murder trial, enters a guilty plea to possession indictment, granted pre-trial diversion program

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By Bobby Bordelon

Harold Bailes Jr., also known as Little Frankie, entered a pre-trial diversion program after pleading guilty to one count of possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine on Friday, August 28. Bailes was a key, but problematic, witness for the prosecution in the 2019 murder trial against Carl Rich, the results of which might be thrown out if a motion from Rich’s defense is approved in the Greenbrier County Circuit Court.

Bailes was indicted in 2018 after his arrest on September 21, 2017. In a plea agreement with the state, Bailes plea guilty to one charge of delivery of methamphetamine, but the charges would be dismissed upon his completion of a pre-trial diversion program. This program would include his participation in Greenbrier County Drug Court, lasting at least one year, and home incarceration.

Throughout the hearing Bailes confirmed his desire to take the plea deal, although after Greenbrier County Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via summarized the state’s case, he did ask how the state intended to prove its case should the matter go to trial. According to Via, one piece of evidence offered was the testimony of the arresting officer.

After questioning by Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dent, Defense Attorney John Anderson also noted he did not believe Bailes had a “meritorious defense” and taking the plea deal was in his best interest. Although Bailes said another lawyer he met with found he could argue for misdemeanor charges rather than felony, Bailes said he couldn’t financially afford the other lawyer and was happy with Anderson’s defense of him in the case.

“What do you think, Mr. Anderson?” asked Bailes when asked if he was ready to plead by Dent.

“You know, I think you’re good,” he responded. “It’s your day.”

“I’m ready,” Bailes responded, before pleading guilty.

Bailes was a major witness in the 2019 trial of Carl Wayne Rich, one of three people in the room when Rich shot Jay Booth with a compound bow, ultimately resulting in Booth’s death. Although called as a witness for the prosecution, he was later impeached during the trial by Via due to differences between his initial statement to police when interviewed, and subsequent inquires by the prosecution in preparation for the trial, and his actual testimony on the stand. When asked about these differences, Bailes admitted his memory was not good, agreeing with defense attorney Paul Detch when asked if the “fog of methamphetamine” obscured many of the day’s events. This is one of several reasons listed in a motion for a new trial after the grand jury found Rich guilty of voluntary manslaughter, a motion that has yet to be considered in the Greenbrier County Circuit Court.

Bailes was set to be released on Monday, August 31, in order to coordinate with the Greenbrier County Home Incarceration Program.