CHARLESTON - Though not named as a co-defendant, a newly appointed circuit judge is among those implicated in Brittany Mae Keene’s lawsuit who aided and abetted Barbour County Sheriff John Wesley Hawkins' violation of her civil rights.
In a 15-count civil rights suit filed July 18, Keene alleges Hawkins nearly two years ago raped her in a camper on the county fairgrounds when she was still 17 years old. Keene, now 20, and a Moutsville resident, alleges Hawkins used potential employment in the county’s 911 center as pretext to get her alone with him.
Also, Keene’s suit states that shortly after she filed a domestic violence protective order against Hawkins after he allegedly threatened to kill her if she told of anyone of the encounter, she was indicted on May 29, 2012, by the Barbour County grand jury on charges of receiving and transferring stolen guitars from the Haven of Hope Church the previous March.
According to court records, Senior Status Randolph Circuit Judge John Henning, who was appointed to the case by the state Supreme Court after Barbour Circuit Judge Alan Mouts recused himself, dismissed the indictment on Aug. 17. Since the dismissal was done without prejudice, Keene could be re-indicted.
In her suit, Keene alleges the indictment and subsequent prosecution was nothing more than a smokescreen to divert attention away from her rape allegation. Among those who conspired in the sham prosecution, Keene says, are Barbour County Prosecutor Leckta Poling, who recused herself from the case following the indictment, and assistant Harrison County prosecutors Traci Cook and Kurt W. Hall, to whom it was subsequently assigned.
The same day Keene filed her suit in U.S. District Court, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced his appointment of Hall as circuit judge in the 26th Judicial Circuit serving Lewis and Upshur counties. The appointment was to fill the vacancy created by Judge Thomas Keadle, who retired in January.
The West Virginia Record attempted to obtain a comment from Hall, who started work in the prosecutor’s office in 2002, about the allegations leveled against him in Keene’s suit. He did not return a telephone call by presstime.
Also, The Record attempted to find out if Tomblin, and the state Judicial Vacancy Commission, which, along with Upshur Prosecutor Jacob Reger and Roanoke attorney C. Sue Holvey, recommended Hall as candidates to fill Keadle’s vacancy, were aware of Hall’s involvement in Keene’s case. Gubernatorial Spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin did not return repeated calls by presstime.
Hawkins issued a response to Keene's lawsuit.
Hawkins first issued a response on his Facebook page, then issued a formal response.
“First and foremost, I deny the allegations in the complaint,” Hawkins said.
“Unfortunately in today’s society issues like these are tried more in the ‘Court of Public Opinion’ than in our judicial system, where they belong.
“Over the next few months, this lawsuit will proceed. Both sides have attorneys who will exchange information and negotiate. The outcome, the plaintiff seeks money for damages caused by her allegations.
“Either they will get money or they won’t. That will be up to a jury to decide. The jury will be picked from the same citizens who will have been blitzed by the media coverage of this.”
The complaint says five other females have been sexually assaulted by Hawkins and that the plaintiff will disclose their names upon agreement with the defendants regarding the use of their names.
Those assaults allegedly took place in at the Barbour County Courthouse, in Hawkins’ police cruiser, in the evidence room and at a shooting range.
The lawsuit lists 15 counts, including unlawful arrest, excessive force, civil conspiracy, tort of outrage, assault, battery, negligent retention and hiring and false imprisonment.
Keene is represented by Paul J. Harris and Shawn L. Flaherty of Wheeling.