Grafton man’s gun rights forfeited after altercation concerning snake

TAYLOR COUNTY—After being indicted by the Taylor County Grand Jury in September, and moving toward a trial, a local man entered into a negotiated plea agreement with the state and was sentenced in Taylor County Circuit Court last week.

John Henry Byrne, Jr., 59, of Grafton was charged with two counts of wanton endangerment after he allegedly pointed a firearm at individuals outside of a daycare located in Taylor County. The incident happened in July 2020, outside of a childcare facility located in Wickwire Road.

According to the criminal investigation carried out by West Virginia State Police Corporal J. G. Daugherty, two juvenile males found a snake outside of the daycare and one was carrying it to show a daycare worker, when Byrne drew his Ruger handgun and pointed it at the youth, threatening to shoot the snake.

Bryne countered the claim saying that the boys brought the snake near his truck to try and scare the daycare worker, and that is when he unholstered a gun that was on his hip and laid it on the center console of the vehicle.

He claimed that he then merely yelled at the boys and told them if they didn’t get away from his truck, he would shoot the snake.

It was his recollection that he had removed the gun from his holster so as to not take it inside the daycare facility when picking up his grandson, and that he had never pointed the weapon at anyone.

However, other witnesses corroborated the story of the two juveniles, that Bryne had, in fact, pointed a weapon at one of the males, who was holding the snake.

Furthermore, witnesses made statements to law enforcement officials that the weapon was loaded, and that there was a round in the chamber ready for discharge.

The defendant was contacted by Daugherty, who advised him to turn himself in. He freely did so, in cooperation with the investigation.

Bryne, who was set to go to trial in the matter, made the decision to own up to his actions at a pre-trial motions hearing, admitting fault and entering into a negotiated plea agreement with the state.

In return for a guilty plea to count one of his indictment, wanton endangerment involving with a firearm, the state would move to dismiss count two of the indictment. As part of the agreement, Byrne waived his right to a pre-sentence investigation.

“The state will recommend an alternative sentence for the defendant,” said Taylor County Prosecuting Attorney John Bord.

For his actions, Bryne faced a potential sentence of a definite term of not more than one nor more than five years confinement in a West Virginia State Penitentiary or a fine of not less than $250 nor more than $2,500.

The defendant admitted in court that he had in fact pointed his loaded gun at the snake being held by the juvenile male, potentially putting the youth at risk of bodily harm.

Nineteeth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Alan D. Moats accepted Bryne’s guilty plea to count one of the indictment, wanton endangerment involving with a firearm. He then set his focus on sentencing the defendant.

Moats ordered that Bryne would serve a period of five years on home confinement but would be allowed to continue working. 

After having served a minimum of one year, the court could then review the sentence and would then order that Byrne be placed on the Taylor County Community Corrections Program full time.

Moats further ordered that the weapon used in the commission of the crime be surrendered and turned over to the West Virginia State Police, and that Bryne would forfeit his gun possession rights for the remainder of his life.


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