CHARLES TOWN – An Eastern Panhandle sheriff has decided to throw in the towel on both his law enforcement career and fight with the federal government and admit he violated a bank robbery suspect’s civil rights.
Robert “Bobby” Shirley on Jan. 11 tendered his resignation as Jefferson County sheriff in a one-sentence letter addressed to Commission President Patsy Noland. Records show the resignation came the same day Shirley, 61, formally accepted a plea agreement offered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in a pending indictment against him for violating Mark Daniel Haines’ civil rights.
In June, a federal grand jury indicted Shirley on charges relating to his arrest of Haines 18 months earlier. According to both the indictment and a related civil suit Haines filed, Shirley recklessly beat and kicked Haines following a high-speed chase on Dec. 27, 2010.
Shirley and deputies with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department began their chase of Haines after receiving a report he attempted to rob the drive-thru of the City National Bank at the Potomac Marketplace shopping center in Ranson. Eventually, officers with the Charles Town and Ranson police departments joined in and were later followed by the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department and the West Virginia State Police.
After Haines stopped his pick-up truck in a field across from Files Cross Road, he stepped out of the vehicle with his hands in the air. After one or more of the officers pushed him against the bed of truck, Shirley “climbed into the bed… and kicked [him] repeatedly in the head with a deliberate and sadistic intention to inflict injury on [him],” it is alleged.
The indictment charged Shirley with deprivation of rights under the color of law and destruction, altercation or falsification of records in a federal investigation. After pleading not guilty to the charges at his arraignment, Shirley was released on a $15,000 unsecured bond that included a travel restriction to the northern district and was prohibited from carrying a firearm.
In exchange for pleading guilty to the civil rights charge, and, among other things, agreeing to offer truthful information to further demands for information, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Camiletti offered to dismiss the falsification charge. Shirley’s attorney, Kevin D. Mills, said the offer would be accepted with the stipulation Shirley be allowed to tender his resignation and he remain free on bond pending sentencing subject to electronic monitoring.
U.S. Magistrate Judge David J. Joel on Jan. 14 accepted Shirley’s change of plea and delayed sentencing pending a pre-sentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office. The next day, he placed Shirley under home confinement.
A trial was originally scheduled for Jan. 22. On the civil rights charge, Shirley faces up to 10 years in prison, followed by three years supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
Originally, the Commission planned to fill Shirley’s vacancy after interviewing three candidates selected by the county Democratic Executive Committee. However, it later announced it would advertise for the position as it would any other job vacancy.
The replacement would fill Shirley’s vacancy until next election in 2014. In meantime, the commission appointed Chief Deputy Jesse Jones as acting sheriff.
Prior to the plea agreement, Harry P. Waddell, Haines’ attorney, filed an amended complaint in the civil suit against Shirley. In it, he identified, and named as co-defendants nine of the previously 14 John Doe officers who aided Shirley in arresting Haines.
They are JCSD deputies Joseph Forman and Terry Palmer, BCSD deputies J.H. Jenkins, C. Merson, Corey Welcome and T.A. Sherman, Ranson Police Department Lt. Charles Lynch, Charles Town Police Dept Sgt. W. M. Spessert and Trooper Joseph Bush.
Along with their answer filed Dec. 27 in which they deny Haines’ allegations, Forman and Palmer filed a counterclaim seeking recovery of attorneys fees and expenses. They are represented by Jonathan Tyler Mayhew and Joseph L. Caltrider with Bowles, Rice, McDavid, Graff and Love.
Last May, Haines, 42, was sentenced to 19 years in prison after pleading guilty to an earlier robbery of a BB&T branch in Martinsburg. In September, he plead guilty in U.S. District Court to attempting to escape from the Eastern Regional Jail while awaiting sentencing on the robbery charge.
Currently, he is incarcerated at the Allegheny County Detention Center near Cumberland, Md.
Trial in the civil suit is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 19 before Judge John Preston Bailey.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, case number 12-cr-46 (Shirley criminal) and 12-cr-51 (Shirley civil)