RIPLEY – A Wood County man is asking a judge in Jackson County to put a stop to criminal charges against him.
Jackson County Magistrate Tom Reynolds is named as a respondent in writ of prohibition filed May 15 in Jackson Circuit Court by Robert Harris. In his writ, Harris, 69, of Mineral Wells alleges Reynolds erred in finding probable cause to charge him with indecent exposure last year.
According to the criminal complaint, Harris was stopped by Deputy B.L Varney on Feb. 7, 2011, after receiving a call from David Matthew Gross via the 911 center that Harris was exposing himself while driving his car. In a statement he later provided, Gross said while driving his tractor trailer, he observed Harris masturbating with one hand while holding the steering wheel of his Ford Escape with the other.
Gross said he noticed Harris’ actions while both were travelling southbound on Interstate 77. Though the complaint does not specify for how long, Gross said Harris would pass him only to slow down and make him pass Harris.
After asking to see his license and registration, Varney advised Harris why he stopped him. At first, Harris said he didn’t know what Varney was talking about, then stated “‘I may have scratched my nuts or something, but I wasn’t doing that.’”
In the complaint, Varney said he observed Harris’ hands “visibly shaking.”
When informed Gross would be providing a statement, Harris said he wanted to provide one, too. After that, Varney let Harris go.
After Reynolds found probable cause on Feb. 23, Harris was arrested and charged on March 8, 2011.
According to the writ, Harris made a motion to dismiss the charge on April 29 on the grounds that Varney “did not have a reasonable articulable suspicion that [Harris] was committing a crime to justify a stop … language in the criminal complaint did not establish probable cause for a charge of indecent exposure … and, the discovery provided the State of West Virginia did not support a prima facie case of indecent exposure.” Following a Sept. 27 hearing, Reynolds denied the motion.
Harris is represented by Parkersburg attorney George J. Cosenza. The case is assigned to Judge Thomas C. Evans III.
A hearing on Harris’ writ is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 7.
Jackson Circuit Court case number 12-P-15