Grant County releases details of civil rights settlements

PETERSBURG – Grant County officials have disclosed details on a settlement reached last Summer in a civil rights lawsuit brought against two former lawmen.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the West Virginia Record, the Grant County Commission said it agreed to pay Dylan Riggleman $76,335.44 to settle the suit he filed on Aug. 22, 2011, against former Deputy Tony Dixon Cooper and Sheriff Art Puffenbarger. According to the terms, Riggleman, 22 and of Petersburg, kept $75,000 and the remainder was paid to the state Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund for unspecified expenditures it made on his behalf.

The payment was made by the Commission’s insurance carrier, West Virginia Counties Group Self-Insurance Risk Pool, Inc., and without any admission of liability. Also, Risk Pool paid $23,295 to the law firm of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown and Poe for the legal fees and expenses they incurred in defending the county.

Additionally, the Commission paid a $10,000 deductible.

In his suit, Riggleman accused Cooper of sexually assaulting him in a secluded area in Hampshire County on June 2, 2010, while transporting him from the Sheriff’s Office in Petersburg to the Potomac Highlands Regional Jail in Augusta following an arrest for DUI of a controlled substance.

After Riggleman lodged a complaint with the State Police, Cooper, a four-year veteran, was first placed on administrative leave the next month and fired the following October.

The DUI charge was also dismissed in October.

During its January 2011 term, the Hampshire grand jury indicted Cooper on two counts of sexual assault in the second degree. Six months later, after deliberating for under an hour, a jury acquitted Cooper of both charges.

Along with ones for civil rights violations, Riggleman made claims against Cooper for assault and battery and intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress. Also, he accused Puffenbarger of negligent hiring, retention, investigation and discipline.

First elected in 2004, Puffenbarger was upended in the 2008 Republican primary by current Sheriff Emory “Bill” Feaster, Jr.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, case number 11-cv-63

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