Mingo town settles civil rights suit against police officers

CHARLESTON – A Mingo County municipality has settled a civil rights suit accusing two of its former officers of wrongfully arresting a man following a traffic stop.

U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston on Dec. 14 dismissed Verner Fred Poe, Jr.’s suit against the town of Gilbert after the sides announced they reached a settlement through mediation that same day. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed in court records.

However, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, Gary Pullin, the attorney hired by the town’s insurance carrier, National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, disclosed the town, agreed to pay Poe $40,000. Also, Pullin disclosed the payment was made by both National Union, and AIG, and done without the town admitting any liability.

Additionally, National Union paid the $21,559.70 legal fees, and expenses his firm, Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown and Poe incurred in defending the town.

In his suit, Poe, 65 and a resident of Verner, said Gilbert police officers B.T. Sipple II and R.J. Toler stopped him on Oct. 30, 2009, while driving along W. Va. 80, and later cited him for expired registration and a burned out headlight. When he refused to sign the citation, Sipple and Toler, after a brief altercation with Poe, arrested him.

In addition to the moving violations, Sipple and Toler charged Poe with failure to sign a citation, obstructing an officer and two counts of battery on an officer. However, Magistrate Pam Newsome found no probable cause to the failure to sign charge, and informed Sipple and Toler that Poe had “no legal obligation to sign the citation.”

After Sipple and Toler informed her they wanted to press forward on the remaining charges, Newsome set July 14, 2010, for a bench trial. She dismissed them when Sipple and Toler were a no-show.

According to information provided by the town, Sipple joined GPD two weeks before arresting Poe while Toler was on the job for the previous 11 months. Sipple left on Oct. 8, 2010, and Toler a month later.

They were paid $8 and $10 an hour, respectively.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 11-cv-645

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