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Grand jury indicts W.Va. men on civil rights charges

January 18, 2001

Grand jury indicts W.Va. men on civil rights charges



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Two Jefferson County men were indicted Wednesday on charges of civil rights violations in connection with an incident last year in which racial slurs were made toward a black man, according to court records.

A gun was fired into the air during the incident, police had alleged.

A Jefferson County grand jury indicted Brian K. Hanna, 27, of 104 W. Fifth Ave., Ranson, and Jason Jacobs, 19, of Harpers Ferry, according to Jefferson County Circuit Court records.

Hanna was indicted on charges of violating the civil rights of another person, four counts of conspiracy to commit an offense against the state, three counts of wanton endangerment involving a firearm, shooting at another person in a place of public resort and three counts of assault, court records said.

Jacobs was indicted on charges of violating the civil rights of another person and four counts of conspiracy to commit an offense against the state, court records said.

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On Sept. 4, 2000, Derrick Berry, who is black, walked to a Texaco station near the Jamesway store along U.S. 340 north of Charles Town.

William Senseney, who was Jefferson County Sheriff at the time, said after the incident that when Berry reached the station, he and a group of white children began yelling at each other.

When Berry was leaving the station, he found someone in a car to give him a ride because he was concerned about his safety, Senseney and George Rutherford, president of the county chapter of the NAACP, said previously.

Shortly after the car in which Berry was riding left the Texaco station, two tow trucks pulled around the car and blocked it off, Senseney had said. A man stepped out of one of the trucks, approached the car in which Berry was a passenger and pointed a gun at another person in the car, Rutherford and Senseney had alleged.

A gun was pointed at Berry and at some point, was fired into the air, according to allegations at the time.

At the time of the incident, Rutherford requested that the FBI investigate the case.

Rutherford said Wednesday that he received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice saying they would follow up on the complaint. Rutherford said he has heard nothing further from the agency.

Jesse Jones, chief deputy of the Sheriff's Department, said an FBI agent came to Charles Town to meet with a deputy investigating the case.

Brian de Vallance, director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Justice Department, sent Rutherford a letter Oct. 30, notifying him that the FBI had been asked to investigate.

"Any time a threat or act of racially motivated violence occurs, it diminishes all of us. You can be assured that if the evidence shows there was a prosecutable violation of federal criminal civil rights statute, appropriate action will be taken," Vallance wrote.

Hanna, who is a member of the Independent Fire Co. in Ranson, has been placed on administrative suspension until the case is resolved, Fire Chief Ed Smith said Wednesday.

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