ELKINS – A federal judge has granted part of the Barbour County Commission’s motion to dismiss claims made against it in a lawsuit that alleged Sheriff John Hawkins sexually assaulted a woman during a job interview.
On Dec. 16, U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey, of the Northern District of West Virginia, released his decision in Brittany Mae Keene’s lawsuit against the commission and Hawkins.
On Aug. 9, the commission moved to dismiss the claims made against it.
Bailey granted the motion to dismiss claims pertaining to unlawful arrest, excessive force, civil conspiracy, outrage and intentional infliction of emotional distress, abuse of process and exemplary damages.
Keene claims Hawkins sexually assaulted her during a job interview. Hawkins denies the allegations.
Keene says the assault took place in 2011 at a job interview in a camper owned by the county that was located at the Barbour County Fairgrounds. She was 17 years old at the time of the alleged assault.
“Defendant Hawkins proceeded to ‘interview’ Plaintiff and then abruptly declared that if Plaintiff wanted the job, she would have to sleep with him,” says the complaint, filed July 18 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.
“Plaintiff refused and attempted to exit the camper. Defendant Hawkins then slammed Plaintiff face-forward against the wall of the camper and handcuffed her hands behind her back.”
In order to silence her, Hawkins stuffed either a bandana or handkerchief in her mouth, the suit says. It also claims he inserted a cucumber in her rectum.
“First and foremost, I deny the allegations in the complaint,” Hawkins said in response.
“Unfortunately in today’s society issues like these are tried more in the ‘Court of Public Opinion’ than in our judicial system, where they belong.
“Over the next few months, this lawsuit will proceed. Both sides have attorneys who will exchange information and negotiate. The outcome, the plaintiff seeks money for damages caused by her allegations.
“Either they will get money or they won’t. That will be up to a jury to decide. The jury will be picked from the same citizens who will have been blitzed by the media coverage of this.”
Keene claims Hawkins told her he would kill her if she said anything to her.
The complaint says five other females have been sexually assaulted by Hawkins and that the plaintiff will disclose their names upon agreement with the defendants regarding the use of their names.
Those assaults allegedly took place in at the Barbour County Courthouse, in Hawkins’ police cruiser, in the evidence room and at a shooting range.
The lawsuit lists 15 counts, including unlawful arrest, excessive force, civil conspiracy, tort of outrage, assault, battery, negligent retention and hiring and false imprisonment.
After the alleged assault, Keene filed a domestic violence protection order petition against him. In May 2012, she was arrested on a felony charge of receiving stolen property and a misdemeanor charge of transferring stolen property.
WBOY reported that she was alleged to have stolen two guitars from a church. The indictment was dismissed.
Keene claims the indictment was filed in retaliation for her claims against Hawkins. She is represented by Paul J. Harris and Shawn L. Flaherty of Wheeling.
Despite the issue gaining some media attention last summer, Hawkins, a Democrat, won re-election in November.
The commission is represented by Keith C. Gamble of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe in Morgantown.
Hawkins submitted an answer to the complaint on Aug. 7 that denies Keene’s allegations. He is represented by Harry A. Smith III of McNeer, Highland, McMunn and Varner in Elkins.
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.