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Suit filed against Jefferson cops

November 03, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Jefferson County, W.Va., woman recently filed a $6.25 million lawsuit against a Jefferson County sheriff's deputy, the sheriff's department and the county.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court, claims Michelle Powell was unlawfully deprived of her liberty.

The lawsuit also seeks $2 million in legal fees for her attorney, Keith Wheaton, of Shepherdstown, W.Va.

On July 6, 911 dispatchers received a call from a woman at 207 Willow Spring Farm Apartments, claiming she was being attacked by a man in her apartment, according to the lawsuit.

Deputy John Jeffries went to 207 Oak Tree Court by mistake and knocked on the door looking for the domestic call, according to the lawsuit.

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Powell was ill in her bathroom when the deputy knocked on the door, the lawsuit said.

Her 6-year-old son told her that the man at the door threatened to kick the door open if they did not open it, the lawsuit said.

The boy opened the door and the deputy stepped into the apartment as Powell stepped out of the bathroom, according to the lawsuit.

The deputy asked for her name and she refused to give it until he told her why he was there, the lawsuit said.

The deputy refused to tell her and allegedly "verbally assaulted" her, the lawsuit said.

She told him to leave the apartment and he threatened to arrest her for obstruction of justice, the lawsuit said.

He then allegedly grabbed her arm and pinned it behind her back as he handcuffed her, the lawsuit said.

He also forced her face against the wall as other deputies arrived to his call for assistance, the lawsuit said.

She was led out in handcuffs to the sheriff's department cruiser, the lawsuit said.

The deputy then learned he had gone to the wrong address, according to the lawsuit.

Powell claims she suffered psychological and physical damage from the incident.

The lawsuit seeks $1.25 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

Jeffries could not be reached for comment and Sheriff William Senseney was out of town Monday.

The lawsuit claims the county sheriff's department did not properly train Jeffries how to handle domestic assault calls and did not properly train him to handle stressful situations.

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