CHARLES TOWN – Robert “Bobby” Shirley’s recent guilty plea to civil rights violations is the third time in a year a sheriff has admitted to criminal misconduct.
In January 2012, then-Lincoln County Sheriff Jerry Bowman was indicted in U.S. District Court on a count of information of conspiracy against rights of citizens. The charge was the result of a joint investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District and the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office into voter fraud in Lincoln County.
The indictment accused Bowman of falsifying more than 100 absentee ballots in the May 2010 Democratic primary that benefited not only his campaign for circuit clerk, but Donald Whitten’s re-election effort as county clerk. Separately, Whitten was indicted on a count of information of fraud.
In pleading guilty, Bowman, 58, agreed to resign as sheriff and never run for elective office again. Judge Thomas E. Johnston on Sept. 5 sentenced Bowman to a year and a day in prison and fined him $5,100.
Currently, he is incarcerated at the Federal Corrections Institution-Schuylkill in Minersville, Pa.
Also that January, the Mason County grand jury returned a 38-count indictment against then-Sheriff David Anthony II for unrelated fraud and firearms charges stemming from using public funds to take a personal trip to Florida, and discharging a handgun over his son’s head. In March, Anthony, 42, agreed to plead guilty to charges of brandishing and shooting near a dwelling and no contest to charges of fraudulent scheme and embezzlement, all misdemeanors.
In exchange for his guilty plea, Anthony, who was facing removal from office on a petition filed by the Mason County Commission, agreed to resign from office immediately, withdraw his candidacy for re-election, surrender his law enforcement certification and publically apologize for his actions. In May, Judge David W. Nibert sentenced Anthony to 18 months in jail, and fined him $500.
Currently, he is incarcerated at the Southwestern Regional Jail near Holden in Logan County.
Shirley’s guilty plea, and subsequent resignation, brings to an end a 32-year career in law enforcement. Shirley became a deputy sheriff in 1981 and worked his way to the rank of lieutenant before retiring in 2006.
Shortly after retiring Shirley became lead supervisor for security at the U.S. Customs Border and Protection Advanced Training Center in Harpers Ferry. In 2008, Shirley successfully defeated his Republican opponent, James E. Watson III, in the open race for sheriff.
That year, then-Sheriff Everett Boober was constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third successive term and unsuccessfully ran for assessor. In May's primary election, Shirley foiled Boober’s attempt at a political comeback by defeating him, 2,224 to 1,227.
In spite of the indictment, Shirley narrowly defeated his GOP challenger, Earl Ballenger, also a retired JSCD deputy, in November’s general election, 50.71 to 48.78