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W.Va. trooper, prosecutor in legal battle over rental property

June 19, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A West Virginia State Police trooper has sued a Berkeley County assistant prosecuting attorney, claiming the lawyer caused more than $15,000 in damage to the Inwood, W.Va., property that he leased to him in 2006.

Trooper Joseph M. Walker has asked for a $15,488 judgment, plus interest and attorney fees, from Gregory V. Smith in a complaint filed in Berkeley County Circuit Court by attorney Barry P. Beck.

In response, Smith said the trooper's allegations were not supportable and amounted to little more than harassment and public embarrassment.

Smith has requested a $50,000 judgment in a counterclaim, seeking payment of medical bills and "for his pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life" as well as punitive damages.

Last week, 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes recused himself from hearing the case and it was transferred to Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh, according to court records.

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Walker and Smith signed a rental agreement in May 2006 for a private residence at 6 Colossians Court in Inwood. The agreement ended in December 2007, according to their respective claims.

Walker said in his complaint that Smith repeatedly violated a "smoking ban" placed on the property on a daily basis after promising not to smoke inside the leased premises of the residence.

Smith "did not surrender the leased premises to (me) in the same condition as when he received it, less reasonable wear," Walker said in his complaint.

Walker said the rental agreement included a clause that required the tenant to pay $15 per day for violating the smoking ban.

Acting in his own defense, Smith said in his response that Walker's damage claim was not in good faith and claimed the complaint was filed for "no other purpose than harassment, public embarrassment and to try and coerce settlement."

Because of the legal action, Smith said he has been publicly embarrassed and "now suffers from headaches, the loss of sleep and nerve problems that are adversely affecting his already very poor health, job performance and the enjoyment of his life."

While asking for a larger judgment than Walker, Smith also asked for pre- and post-judgment interest and attorneys fees. Smith said he wished to be compensated at the attorney fee rate of $75 and other costs as deemed appropriate by the court in defending what he said was an "excessive and harassing action."

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