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Jefferson County sheriff pleads not guilty on civil rights violation charge

June 18, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Jefferson County (W.va.) Sheriff Robert E. "Bobby" Shirley, right, and attorney Kevin Mills walk toward U.S. District Court in Martinsburg, W.Va., Monday. Shirley is accused of 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.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Jefferson County Sheriff Bobby Shirley pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday to charges of violating the civil rights of a bank robbery suspect and falsifying records during an investigation of the incident.

A jury trial was scheduled for Aug. 7 by U.S. Magistrate David J. Joel, who presided over Shirley’s initial appearance in court on the charges and arraignment.

The case was transferred to U.S. District Judge John P. Bailey after District Judge Gina M. Groh disqualified herself from the proceeding due to concerns her impartiality might be questioned, according to court documents.

Shirley, 60, was released on a $15,000 personal recognizance bond at the conclusion of his arraignment, but his travel is restricted to the 32 counties that comprise the Northern District of WestVirginia, according to conditions of his release.

Joel ruled that Shirley could not carry a firearm, even while fulfilling his duties as sheriff, saying he had to be treated like any other citizen who faces similar charges.

Shirley is accused of violating the rights of Mark Daniel Haines in December 2010 and of falsifying a use of force report regarding Haines’ arrest.

If convicted of the felony charges, Shirley faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

Joel indicated he would be willing to hold a hearing to fully discuss the firearm issue if requested by Shirley.

After the hearing, Shirley’s attorney, Kevin D. Mills, said they had yet to decide whether to request a hearing, but acknowledged the sheriff doesn’t need to carry a firearm to carry out his constitutional duties of the elected office.

Mills said Monday that Shirley “absolutely” intends to remain the sheriff of Jefferson County, noting voters indicated their confidence in him during the May primary election.

Mills proposed to the court Monday that Shirley be allowed to carry a firearm for work, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, but at no other time as part of a compromise.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul T. Camilletti told Joel he felt the firearm restriction was appropriate given the underlying circumstances of Shirley’s indictment.

Camilletti also told the court he didn’t feel the firearm restriction imperils the sheriff from carrying out his duties and that the arrangement is designed to aid in successful pretrial release.

Mills said Shirley does not expect to be treated any differently than anyone else, but also noted his client’s duties as sheriff in making the special request.

Camilletti said he was concerned that only limiting the time Shirley is allowed to carry a firearm would open the door for litigation.

At one point in the discussion, Joel questioned if the arrangement Mills proposed would mean the sheriff could carry a firearm while he was away from the office for lunch.  

Shirley provided the court with his address, date of birth and mobile phone number after taking an oath during a hearing that lasted about 15 minutes.

The charges against Shirley stem from Haines’ arrest in December 2010 after his failed attempt to rob City National Bank in Ranson, W.Va. The indictment returned by a grand jury in Wheeling, W.Va., alleges Shirley kicked Haines and assaulted him and willfully deprived him of his right to be free from use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer.

A federal civil lawsuit filed on Haines’ behalf against Shirley and 14 “unknown police officers” claims the sheriff 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.

Shirley’s attorneys have denied the allegations.

The civil lawsuit indicates Haines, who led police on a vehicle chase from Jefferson County into Berkeley County, suffered scrapes and bruises on his face and back, a hemorrhage in his right eye, and a broken nose, rib and eye socket.

Haines was sentenced in May to nearly 19 years in prison and three years of probation after pleading guilty to the Dec. 22, 2010, robbery of a BB&T branch in Martinsburg. Judge John P. Bailey also ordered Haines to repay more than $7,500.

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