False arrest in petty theft case results in civil rights suit against State Police

PARKERSBURG – As her reward for being a good neighbor in returning stolen money to its rightful owner, a Wirt County woman alleges she was paid a late-night visit by police and hauled off to jail.

The West Virginia State Police is named as a co-defendant in a nine-count civil rights suit by Glenna Sue Conley. In her complaint filed June 10 in U.S. District Court, Conley alleges, despite evidence to the contrary, she was arrested, and charged with stealing less than $100 from a businesswoman's purse last year.

According to her suit, Conley, along with her daughter, went to the McGrady Jones Insurance Agency on June 18, 2010, to inquire about registering and insuring the daughter's newly acquired car. Accompanying them was a male friend of Conley's daughter, who is unidentified in court records.

As Conley's daughter was speaking with a McGrady Jones agent, Conley started a conversation with another, Eydie Eileen McVeigh, about modifying her current policy to include her daughter. At one point during the conversation the man asked to use the bathroom.

After he did, Conley says she noticed him loitering behind the counter from where she was speaking with McVeigh. When she inquired what he was doing, he replied he was making a hasty bandage from toilet paper and tape to cover a cut on his finger.

Shortly thereafter, he returned to the front of the counter with Conley and McVeigh.

After completing their business at McGrady Jones, Conley says she, along with her daughter and the friend, returned to her home in Elizabeth. Shortly after arriving, the daughter received a phone call from McVeigh.

According to her suit, Conley, who was inside the house when the call arrived, maintains McVeigh suspected the young man of stealing $76 from her purse. McVeigh's suspicions where correct as Conley maintains her daughter somehow discovered he did steal it, and convinced him to give her the money.

Upon learning of his deed, Conley says she attempted to convince him to return the money to McVeigh and apologize. When he refused, Conley and her daughter "then took it upon themselves to return the money" later that same day.

Believing the matter resolved, Conley says she was contacted three days later by Sgt. A.D. Nichols with the Wirt County State Police Detachment concerning the theft. According to her suit, Conley alleges Nichols – who "'learned through uninvolved individuals'" about the theft – made two visits her workplace to question her about it.

Both times, Conley maintains she told Nichols what happened which included never actually seeing the young man take the money from McVeigh's purse.

Later, on June 26, Nichols called Conley stating he would need a written statement, and asked her to provide one the next day. When she didn't, Nichols called again, and asked her to come to the detachment on the 28th.

According to her suit, Conley said she would call Nichols that day to arrange a time. When she didn't, Nichols, along with Trooper McCullough, made two visits to her home, one in the early afternoon and the other in the early evening, only to find her not there.

Again, Nichols, McCullough and a Wirt County Sheriff's deputy, who previously accompanied them on one of the earlier visits, returned to Conley's home around 11 p.m. At that time, Conley, who'd been in Parkersburg all day, was asleep in bed with her boyfriend.

After hearing the knocking at her door, Conley, who was naked at time, put on robe to answer it. Upon encountering him, Conley alleges Nichols exclaimed "'You lied to me! You said you would call me today and you didn't!'"

Shortly thereafter, Conley's boyfriend came into the living room. When he asked if Nichols had a warrant, Conley alleges Nichols accused him of stealing a fishing pole.

After a few more moments of discussion, Conley maintains Nichols declared "'You're going to jail!'" whereupon he "put a handcuff on her wrist and dragged her through the partially open door."

Before leaving her home, Conley maintains Nichols ignored her repeated pleas to allow her to get dressed. In the course of taking her from her home to the awaiting police cruiser, Conley alleges her robe came undone exposing her breasts.

After being put in the cruiser with her wrists handcuffed behind her back, Conley asked Nichols to close her robe. According to her suit, he refused telling her "'to shut the fuck up.'"

It was only prior to booking did Nichols close, and tie her robe, Conley says.

After spending the night and jail, Conley was arraigned the next morning in Wirt Magistrate Court on charges of receiving stolen property, obstructing and providing false information to an officer, and later released in bond. According to her suit, the charges were later dismissed on Sept. 1 on a motion by the Wirt County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

Regardless, Conley gave a statement to McCullough later that day about the missing $76 from McVeigh's purse. She avers the written statement she gave that unwavered from the initial one she told Nichols six weeks earlier.

Conley's suit names Nichols, McCullough, Major Mark Debord and Col. C.R. "Jay" Smithers, the State Police superintendent, as co-defendants. She makes claims against them for unlawful nighttime warrantless arrest, unlawful sexually intrusive detention, failure to train, invasion of privacy, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, assault and battery.

As a result of the defendants' actions, Conley alleges she's suffered annoyance and inconvenience, emotional distress and embarrassment. She seeks unspecified damages, attorney fees, court costs and interest.

Conley is represented by Glen Burnie, Maryland attorney Georgia Lee Gates with the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia. The case is assigned to Judge Joseph R. Goodwin

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 11-cv-413

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