CHARLESTON - A West Virginia National Guardsman is alleging he was a victim of sexual assault at the hands of his fellow guardsmen, including one of his superiors.

Richard T. Lawrence II filed suit against Billy E. King on Sept. 10 in Kanawha Circuit Court. In his complaint, Lawrence, a Charleston resident, alleges King, also a Charleston resident, sexually assaulted him while they were on duty with their national guard unit.

According to court records, both Lawrence and King are part of the same unit. Though records don't specify the unit, the respective ranks of Airman First Class and Senior Master Sergeant -- and the fact the suit was filed in Kanawha County -- indicate they are part of West Virginia Air National Guard's 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston.

In the U.S. Air Force, of which the Air National Guard is a component, an airman is an enlisted man, and a senior master sergeant is a non-commissioned officer. Both the West Virginia Air and Army National Guard have their headquarters at the West Virginia State Area Command near Coonskin State Park under the command of Maj. Gen. Allen E. Tackett, the state adjutant general.

In his complaint, Lawrence, 27, alleges King, 53, "lead and participated with a group of National Guardsmen in sexually and physically assaulting" him. The assault was "intentional" and done "while on an assignment."

However, the suit lacks specifics as to the nature of the assignment, where it allegedly took place and when. Also, no details are provided on the number or identities, including rank, of the other airmen who participated in the alleged assault, and what they supposedly did to Lawrence.

Furthermore, there are no indications that Lawrence reported the alleged assault to higher-ups in the Air Guard chain-of-command, and what, if any, action they took.

Nevertheless, Lawrence claims as a result of the alleged assault he suffered "emotional distress, embarrassment and mental anguish." Lawrence's suit names only King as a defendant, and in his personal capacity.

Lawrence seeks unspecified damages, and attorney fees. He is represented by Charleston attorneys J. Michael Ranson, Cynthia M. Ranson and George B. Morrone III with the Ranson Law Offices.

The case is assigned to Judge Charles E. King Jr.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 09-C-1683

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