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Grand jury indicts Jefferson County sheriff

Robert E. "Bobby" Shirley was charged in the indictment with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law and one count of destruction, alteration or falsification of record in a federal investigation

June 05, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Jefferson County (W.Va.) Sheriff Robert E. "Bobby" Shirley
File photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A federal grand jury Tuesday indicted Jefferson County Sheriff Robert. E. “Bobby” Shirley on charges that he used unreasonable force in making an arrest in 2010 and then falsified a report to obstruct a federal investigation of the alleged assault.

Robert E. “Bobby” Shirley, 60, of Kearneysville, W.Va., was charged in the indictment with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law on Dec. 27, 2010, in Berkeley County, W.Va., and one count of destruction, alteration or falsification of record in a federal investigation on Sept. 18, 2011, in Jefferson County, according to U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld’s office. 

Shirley said Tuesday night he could not comment about the indictment and deferred to his defense attorney, Kevin D. Mills.

“He’s going to plead not guilty to both of those charges,” Mills said. “We’re a little bit surprised the Civil Rights Division from Washington, D.C., has gotten involved in this case and is making decisions about how law-enforcement officers, including Sheriff Shirley, would conduct themselves when chasing a violent, serial bank robber who has fled the scene of a robbery,” referring to the arrest of Mark Daniel Haines.

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Haines last week filed a civil-rights lawsuit against Shirley and 14 “unknown police officers,” claiming he was beaten severely in December 2010 after a failed bank heist and vehicle chase that ended in Berkeley County.

“We are confident the citizens in the Eastern Panhandle will vindicate the actions that Sheriff Shirley took in helping to arrest a serial, dangerous, fleeing bank robber,” Mills said.

Shirley is expected to make an initial appearance in court this week for arraignment on the indictment, Mills said.

Shirley’s indictment did not appear on the federal court’s online public record access system Tuesday night, and Mills said he had yet to review the specific allegations it contains.

Ihlenfeld’s office said Tuesday in a news release that the indictment alleges Shirley kicked and assaulted an unnamed individual, thereby depriving the person of his right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law-enforcement officer, and that his actions resulted in bodily injury.

Haines’ lawsuit claims Shirley in particular kicked him in the head repeatedly and also stomped on his face, according to court documents. Officers allegedly threw Haines to the ground and against a cruiser, punched him and shocked him with stun guns.

Mills and his associate, Shawn McDermott, released a statement on behalf of Shirley last week denying the allegations.

Ihlenfeld’s office Tuesday said the indictment also alleges Shirley falsified an entry in his sheriff’s office “use of force” report with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation into the assault, the release said.

Mills said Shirley is accused of backdating the report in question.

If convicted, Shirley faces up to 10 years in prison for the unreasonable force charge and up to 20 years in prison if convicted of falsifying the report, the release said.

Shirley could be fined up to $250,000 for each conviction.

Mills said Shirley intends to continue to carry out his constitutional responsibilities as sheriff, noting Shirley’s May 8 primary election win over former Sheriff Ed Boober.

“There’s no statute that says an indictment can replace the will of the voters,” Mills said.


Bank robbery chase

Authorities suspected Haines of robbing two Maryland banks and one in Martinsburg just days before he failed in his attempt to rob City National Bank in Ranson, W.Va., on Dec. 27, 2010.

Shirley spotted Haines’ vehicle in Kearneysville after that attempt. A long pursuit through Jefferson and Berkeley counties ended when officers used spikes to flatten the tires on the stolen truck Haines was driving.

Haines, who is incarcerated at the Allegany County (Md.) Detention Center, said in the lawsuit he ended up in a field, got out with arms raised and offered no resistance. He said he was handcuffed, then pushed over the bed of the pickup and punched.

Haines accused Shirley of climbing onto the bed and kicking him “with a deliberate and sadistic intention to inflict injury,” then stomping on his face after he was thrown to the ground.

Haines alleges any of the defendants could have stopped the beating, but did nothing.

The lawsuit said he suffered scrapes and bruises on his face and back, a hemorrhage in his right eye, and a broken nose, rib and eye socket.

Haines is demanding unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Haines was sentenced in May to nearly 19 years in prison and three years’ probation after pleading guilty to the Dec. 22, 2010, robbery of a BB&T branch in Martinsburg. Judge John Preston Bailey also ordered Haines to repay more than $7,500.

Ihlenfeld’s office said that Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul T. Camilletti will prosecute Shirley’s case with the assistance of the Criminal Section of theU.S. Department of JusticeCivil Rights Division.

The FBI investigated the case now pending against the sheriff, who has a Republican opponent in the November general election.

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