Braxton Citizens' News, Government

Circuit Court exonerated Braxton man of felony charge

Jurors took less than two hours to unanimously find a Braxton County man not guilty last week in Braxton County Circuit Court. John Meadows, 50, of Exchange was charged with the felony wanton endangerment steming from a September 2021 incident. He was also originally charged with robbery but that charge was dropped before the trial.

On the date of the incident, Amanda Zwolinski came to Meadows’ home, at approximately 11:00 p.m. unannounced, asking to buy feed corn for her livestock, according to testimony given by her during the trial.

Meadows, who sells corn from his residence, ask her to leave his property due to how late hour and come back the following day. He said Zwolinksi refused to leave, raising his concern that she may be there for other purposes. At some point during the encounter, Meadows produced a .22 caliber rifle and fired a shot into the ground, saying he hoped to persuade her to leave.

Meadows explained, at first, Zwolinksi refused to leave but then eventually departed on a four-wheeler.

According to trial testimony, Meadows followed her for a short distance before returning to his home where he contacted family members and asked them to call 9-1-1.  A West Virginia State Trooper from the Sutton Detachment and two Braxton County Deputies responded. When they arrived, they interviewed Meadows. The criminal complaint said Meadows produced a photo of an ID card of the woman on his phone, telling police that he had forced her to give him her wallet. He also gave them a location after saying he followed the woman to a nearby house.

Officers interviewed Zwolinksi, who said Meadows started shooting at her the moment she entered his driveway to inquire about buying feed corn. According to her statement, Meadows fired up to eight times. However, investigating officers testified there was no evidence of any gunshots outside the single one Meadows admitted.

Additionally, she testified Meadows struck her with the barrel of a gun, hit her in the head and chest several times and then put the gun in the corner of her mouth. A physician who saw her two days after the incident testified there was no evidence of any injuries. Based upon Zwolinski’s account at the time, officers arrested Meadows.

Meadows’ lawyer, Mark Atkinson, emphasized the inconsistencies in Zwolinski’s victim statement and testimony, including the length of the encounter, the number of shots allegedly fired, grabbing the firearm, bullet damage to her four-wheeler and her injuries. Her testimony was not substantiated by the investigating officers or the physician who treated her after the encounter.

If convicted, Meadows would have faced one to five years in prison.