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Former Berkeley County sheriff's deputy found innocent of sexually abusing woman in 2010

August 26, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — After deliberating for four hours, a Berkeley County Circuit Court jury Friday found a former sheriff's deputy innocent of sexually abusing a woman in July 2010 while in uniform.

P. Shannon Layne, 29, of Martinsburg, was found innocent of two felony counts of first-degree sexual abuse.

Layne, who began working for the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department in 2006, was terminated May 2, 2011, according to county records.

Upon hearing a deputy court clerk read the verdict about 6:15 p.m., some seated in the courtroom gallery supporting Layne were moved to tears and cried out in apparent elation before being reminded to refrain from emotional outbursts by court security officers.

Dressed in a black suit, Layne covered his face with his hands after the clerk announced that the jury found him not guilty of the first count of a two-count indictment and then pulled them away in apparent relief when the not guilty finding was announced for the second count.

The alleged victim appeared stone-faced and showed little reaction.

After leaving the courtroom, defense attorney B. Craig Manford said he and co-counsel Matthew L.  Harvey were glad the truth about their client's actions was told.

"He wishes to thank the jury for listening to all of the evidence and for not getting distracted," Manford said.

While respectful of the verdict of the eight-man, four-woman jury, Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said the statements of the alleged victim, along with three other women who testified about Layne's supposed behavior toward them in the four-day trial, are "clearly concerning."

"I appreciate all the women who stepped forward," Games-Neely said in an interview after leaving the courtroom.  

Because there was no "CSI evidence" to present to the jury in what amounted to a "he said, she said" case, Games-Neely said jurors were left to decide a question of credibility.

"We knew this was a hard case going in," said Games-Neely, who requested that each of the jurors be polled to individually confirm the not guilty verdict.

Before excusing the jury, presiding 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh thanked jurors for being attentive, noting they endured the literal "shakeup" caused by the Virginia earthquake on Tuesday, the first day of the trial. The trial was halted and the Berkeley County Judicial Center was evacuated because of the quake.

"We had no snoozers," said Groh, who also thanked the jurors for their service before they left the courtroom.

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