Trial for Jefferson County sheriff postponed until after Nov. election

July 30, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Jefferson County Sheriff Bobby Shirley
File photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The trial for Jefferson County Sheriff Bobby Shirley, who faces charges of violating civil rights and falsifying records, was continued Monday in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg until after the Nov. 6 general election.

Originally set to begin Aug. 7, the trial was rescheduled for Jan. 22, according to defense attorney Kevin D. Mills and U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II’s office.

Mills said Monday after a pretrial conference on the case that the government did not object to the request for more time to prepare for Shirley’s trial. Judge John Preston Bailey is presiding over the case.

Shirley, 60, is accused of violating the rights of Mark Daniel Haines in December 2010 and falsifying a use-of-force report regarding Haines’ arrest.

In a four-page motion for continuance, Mills and co-counsel Shawn R. McDermott asked that Shirley’s trial be reset for the spring of 2013.

The attorneys said in the motion that the extra time is needed to complete numerous witness interviews, including a “multitude of law enforcement officers.”

A medical expert and an expert on the use of force also needs to be consulted for the case, the attorneys said.

The motion also notes that the record-falsification charge alleges a violation of a relatively new provision of law, which has been interpreted differently in different circuits of the federal court.

The attorneys also noted that Shirley is “a high-standing, elected, public official,” and that the charges arise from his actions while serving the public, which voted in the majority for him to serve as Jefferson County sheriff.

“Thus, the public has an interest in the course and outcome of the proceedings, and would greatly benefit from Sheriff Shirley having adequate time to prepare his defense to the charges.”

Shirley faces Earl Ballenger, 64, of Millville, W.Va., a retired 24-year veteran of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, in the November election.

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 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, W.Va. Judge Bailey also ordered Haines to repay more than $7,500.

Bailey also is presiding over the civil case filed against Shirley.

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