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W.Va. woman found innocent of obstruction

April 05, 2001

W.Va. woman found innocent of obstruction



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Magistrate Court jury on Thursday found the mother of a man who alleges three deputies beat him a year ago innocent of obstructing officers who came to her house to arrest her son.

It took the jury of four women and two men fewer than 30 minutes to find Wilma Rankin of Hedgesville, W.Va., innocent. The trial lasted a day and a half.

Her husband Paul is to be tried on the same charge today.

Her son, Todd Rankin, alleges that officers beat him in the Hedgesville Post Office parking lot on Jan. 17, 2000, following an altercation earlier in the evening with Hedgesville resident Larry Schroyer.

Rankin spent 10 days in the hospital with a collapsed lung and cracked rib he alleges came from the beating.

Three deputies have been indicted.

Deputies went to serve an arrest warrant on Todd Rankin at about midnight Feb. 12, 2000, at his parents' home, where he was staying with his wife and young child.

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Lt. K.C. Bohrer testified that Paul and Wilma Rankin returned home as officers were trying to arrest their son and began "screaming and yelling and making threats." The parents were pepper sprayed and arrested.

Todd Rankin escaped, although he turned himself in the next day.

Attorney Laura Rose said Wilma Rankin was doing nothing more than demanding that the deputies show her the arrest warrant or leave. When neither happened, the situation escalated, she said. But she said her client did not interfere with the legal discharge of official duties by the officers.

Wilma Rankin had rejected a plea agreement offered by prosecutors under which she would have pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing of an officer and paid a $250 fine.

Had she been convicted, she could have been sentenced to up to a year in jail and fined between $50 and $500, Rose said.

"She didn't want to plead no contest to something she did not do," Rose said.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Steve Groh said he presented the facts and let the jury decide.

"That's what juries are for," he said. He declined further comment because his public statements could affect the case of Paul Rankin, he said.

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