Logan County gives up $65K to settle civil rights claim

CHARLESTON – The Logan County Commission has settled a woman’s lawsuit alleging two deputy sheriffs not only falsely arrested her, but also played a role in setting fire to her house and car in retaliation for complaints she made about their conduct.

U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver on Feb. 24, 2011, ordered the dismissal of Brenda Williamson’s civil rights suit against the commission and deputies Jeffrey Robinette and Matthew Carter after the sides announced they reached a settlement. The terms were not disclosed in court records.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the West Virginia Record, Jennifer Tully, the commission’s attorney, disclosed the county’s insurance carriers, National Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh and Chartis Claims, paid Williamson $65,000 to settle her claims. The payout was made without the commission, Robinette or Carter admitting to any of Williamson’s allegations.

In West Virginia, county commissions and sheriffs are co-employers of deputy sheriffs.

According to her complaint filed June 5, 2009, Robinette, Carter and a third deputy identified only as John Doe on Dec. 21, 2007 made a visit to Williamson’s home on City View Dr. in Logan. At an unspecified time, Aida Sloan, a friend of Williamson’s who was residing with her while on home confinement, called 911 alleging Williamson’s boyfriend, Randy Vinson, had chocked her, the suit says.

After the deputies arrived, Williamson went into her kitchen while Sloan and Vincent were separately questioned, it says. Upon discovering she had a surveillance camera on the front of her house, Williamson alleged Robinette became “verbally abusive” toward she and Sloan by not only calling them a “derogatory name” but also threatening “both of them with jail.”

According to the suit, Williamson asked for Robinette’s badge number. Instead of providing it, she says he first handcuffed her then “slammed [her] head off her kitchen table.”

Next, Williamson accused Robinette of slamming her against a nearby deep freeze. When she winced and cried out in pain, Robinette told her to “quit whining,” the suit says.

Allegedly, Robinette, accompanied by Carter, took Williamson outside “where it was very cold, in her bare feet and no coat.” Sometime thereafter, the John Doe deputy called an ambulance at Williamson’s request, the suit says.

According to the suit, while waiting for the ambulance, Williamson says she asked Vinson to get her nitroglycerin spray as she was experiencing chest pains. During that time, Williamson said Robinette was “cursing and telling her that he would show her what jail was all about.”

After her arrival at the hospital, Williamson says she asked those attending to her to take pictures of her injuries. However, she says they refused.

Once she was admitted, Williamson says Robinette “with a hateful look” handed her a citation for obstruction and disorderly conduct. However, it was dismissed on June 9, 2008, in Logan Magistrate Court on account of Robinette’s failure to put the complaint into writing.

According to the suit, after her release from the hospital Williamson lodged an internal complaint against Robinette and Carter. However, she says nothing ever came of it as “no one from the LCSO, contacted her or interviewed her or Ms. Sloan, regarding [it].”

On Jan. 1, 2008, Williamson says while she, Sloan and Vinson were in her home, a fire broke out. Though the cause was determined to be arson, Williamson avers LCSO “did not investigate this fire, and no arrests have been made.”

According to the suit, Williamson’s car was set on fire six months later. Again, LCSO “did not investigate this arson either, and no arrests have been made,” Williamson said.

As such, Williamson in her suit alleged “LCSO, acting through Robinette, Carter and/or …John Doe, either directly or indirectly were responsible for the aforementioned arson, and that is was an attempt to retaliate against [Williamson] for filing her complaint.”

According to the Logan County Clerk’s Office, Robinette, who was hired on March 15, 2003, left LCSO in March. His salary was $35,446.08.

Carter, who was hired on Nov. 15, 2004, remains a deputy and is paid $35.986.08.

Williamson was represented by Huntington attorneys Timothy P. Rosinsky and Kerry A. Nessel.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 09-cv-615

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