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Prosecutors want to introduce 'ancient' evidence in case against Jefferson Co. sheriff

January 04, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • Sheriff Robert E. Bobby Shirley
File photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Prosecutors in the government’s civil rights case against the sheriff of Jefferson County want to present evidence that while on duty years ago, he once shot at a man who was being intimate with his now ex-wife.

Sheriff Robert E. “Bobby” Shirley was indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2012 on one count of violating the civil rights of suspect Mark Daniel Haines on Dec. 27, 2010. Shirley is also charged with falsifying records during an investigation of the incident. Shirley has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The case pending in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg is scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 22, but defense attorney Kevin D. Mills said Friday the intent of prosecutors to introduce “ancient” evidence makes it difficult to stay on course.

“We don’t believe it’s admissible,” said Mills, citing the age of the evidence.

In May 2004, Shirley testified in a federal district court hearing in Martinsburg that while he was on duty he shot at a man “20 some years ago,” according to a copy of the transcript of the proceeding, which was filed Thursday.

“I was working one day, and I drove up on them and caught them in the act,” said Shirley, who was then a lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Department.

“I shot at him one time and that was it.”

Shirley testified that no charges or complaints were filed against him as a result of the shooting and Mills reiterated as much Friday.

Mills also confirmed Friday that Shirley is no longer married to the woman.

Mills said the shooting was “one isolated incident” in Shirley’s 30-year career and doesn’t fairly portray his service to the community. Shirley was re-elected in November’s general election to serve another four-year term as sheriff.

“They want to use this paint him as a bad person,” Mills said.

In the notice of intent to present the evidence that was filed Thursday, the government asserts that Shirley’s 2004 testimony shows the “defendant’s readiness to abuse the power of his position.”

In the Rule 404(b) evidentiary notice, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul T. Camilletti said the government also intends to present evidence of witness tampering through testimony and video recordings that have no audio on them.

Shirley acknowledged shooting at the man when he was being cross-examined by then Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruth A. McQuade in a sentencing hearing for the government’s case against Elaine C. Mauck and Jess W. Mauck, Jr., according to the transcript.

If convicted of the federal charges, Shirley could get up to 30 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

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 other officers who responded 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 2012 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.

Chief Judge John P. Bailey, who now is presiding in Shirley’s case, also ordered Haines to repay more than $7,500.

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