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Five of seven plaintiffs dismissed in suit against sheriff

March 02, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A judge has dismissed five of seven plaintiffs in a federal civil rights lawsuit against Berkeley County Sheriff Ronald E. Jones.

Four of the seven plaintiffs were current or former deputies with the sheriff's department. Two others were unpaid volunteers and one was not affiliated with the department, according to court records.

The plaintiffs accused Jones and other unnamed members of the sheriff's department of sexual harassment, racial discrimination and favoritism. Some said they were harassed by members of the department because they opposed Jones politically.

They were seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

On Feb. 22, United States District Court Judge W. Craig Broadwater dismissed five plaintiffs in the suit: Willie A. Johnson, a deputy; Ronald Charles Howard, a former deputy; David Staubs and Kenneth Michael Haines, former unpaid reserve deputies; and Robert Ernest Frame, who did not work for the department.

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The only remaining plaintiffs are Richard Burrell, a current deputy, and Keith Knotts, a deputy who resigned in July 1997, court records said.

When the suit was first filed in October 1998, Patricia Dawn Richards, another department employee, was listed as a plaintiff. She was dropped from the suit after she said she hadn't agreed to be a plaintiff, according to court records.

Staubs was added when Richards was dropped.

Jones is the only remaining defendant. The sheriff's department and Berkeley County were originally named, too, but Broadwater dismissed them as defendants.

Jones is fighting the allegations.

Broadwater ordered the two sides to try mediation. But in a letter to the court, attorney Patrick G. Henry III, the mediator, said he couldn't resolve the issue in a session in January.

A trial had been scheduled for this month, but it has been postponed until July.

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