BECKLEY – A former deputy is suing the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department after he claims he was discriminated against because of his race.
Raleigh County; Steven Tanner; City of Beckley; Beckley Police Department; Gary Epling; West Virginia State Police; Kenneth L. Pack; and Jason Redden were also named as defendants in the suit.
On March 18, 2014, Marquel Ali began his employment as a deputy with the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department, according to a complaint filed June 23 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Ali claims he was one of three African American males employed by the sheriff’s department and the only one with a dark complexion.
During his employment, Ali received used and/or non-functioning equipment, which other officers received new equipment for their duties, according to the suit.
Ali claims shortly after beginning his employment, he was asked about his career goals and he responded that he hoped to someday become an FBI agent.
Upon hearing the plaintiff’s statement, Tanner ordered the plaintiff not to make any such statements again and that if he did, he would be fired, according to the suit.
Ali claims Tanner regularly and repeatedly called him “boy” and threatened to fire him throughout his employment.
In February 2015, the plaintiff received a positive performance evaluation from his supervising officer and his strongest area involved his willingness to take criticism and work to improve his job performance, according to the suit.
Ali claims on March 16, 2015, he was interrogated and subjected to a voice stress analysis regarding allegations by an individual arrested by Ali and the questions pertained to Ali’s arrest of the individual and handling of evidence.
During the interrogation, Ali requested that his attorney be present, that he had suffered adverse and improper treatment since he had been employed with the sheriff’s department and that he felt isolated, ostracized and targeted, according to the suit.
Ali claims the following day, Tanner terminated his employment, again calling him “boy” and claiming that he didn’t “fit in.”
The plaintiff was never offered the option of resigning from his employment, as a white employee had previously been allowed to do, according to the suit.
Ali claims he faced additional difficulty in obtaining employment with a different law enforcement agency and he timely appealed his termination to the Raleigh County Civil Service Commission.
On June 23, 2015, Ali’s cousin contacted him and requested a ride, so he agreed to assist his cousin, according to the suit.
Ali claims following the initial request for a ride, and prior to Ali picking his cousin up, he received a call from a state trooper with the West Virginia State Police asking if he was currently in Beckley and claiming he wanted to speak with him regarding an arrest and/or a case he had handled months earlier.
The plaintiff informed the state trooper that he was currently in Beckley and, approximately 20 minutes later, he drive to pick up his cousin at his cousin’s friend’s residence in Beckley, according to the suit.
Ali claims approximately one-half mile from the residence, h noticed several unmarked police cars parked in a car wash parking lot and he continued to the residence to pick up his cousin.
When the plaintiff picked up his cousin, the cousin asked to put his bag in the vehicle and Ali popped the trunk, according to the suit. The two then went through the drive-thru at Burger King, and, after he was handed his food, he began to pull through the drive-thru and he was barricaded into the drive-thru by several unmarked police cars, according to the suit.
Ali claims he was forced, at gunpoint, onto the ground and handcuffed and his vehicle was immediately searched.
While in handcuffs, the defendants searched the vehicle and asked Ali to sign a form giving his consent to search the vehicle, which was incorrectly dated for the previous day, according to the suit.
Ali claims he signed the form and the defendants did not inform him that he was under arrest and he fully cooperated with officers and presented absolutely no threat of escalation or danger to any of the officers of members of the public present. He claims he observed Epling approach the back of the vehicle carrying a mid-to-large sized brown or manila colored envelope/package.
After searching the vehicle, the defendants claimed to have found illegal drugs in the trunk of the vehicle and a small amount of marijuana in Ali’s cousin’s pocket, according to the suit. The plaintiff was charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and conspiracy to commit a felony.
Ali claims the defendants did not inform him of his charges, did not read him his Miranda rights, did not show him the controlled substances allegedly found in the trunk and did not indicate the alleged quantity or weight of the substances.
After Ali was arrested, the state trooper that called him less than an hour earlier to confirm he was in Beckley, arrived at the scene and transported Ali to the Beckley State Police office and then to jail, according to the suit.
Ali claims despite being aggressively interrogated, Ali and his cousin both independently verified that Ali had no knowledge and no involvement in any alleged drug activity. Ali claims he also again mentioned that he had just gotten off the phone with a state trooper before being arrested and that he had been set up by his former colleagues at the sheriff’s department in retaliation for challenging his firing.
Throughout criminal proceedings, the defendants refused to disclose evidence and failed and/or refused to disclose or produce material evidence related to Ali’s case that was repeatedly requested by Ali’s counsel, according to the suit.
Ali’s criminal trial began Feb. 13, and, on Feb. 15., Pack’s wife informed the court that she had seen other individuals in the court speaking to potential defense witnesses — Ali’s mother and grandmother. The two individuals were childhood friend’s of Ali’s that grew up with him and hew his family, including his mother and grandmother, very well.
None of the jurors in Ali’s case were present or witnessed any interaction between the potential defense witnesses and the individuals, and Pack admitted that she could not hear what the individuals said to one another and conceded that she had personally spoke with several of the police officers who were set to testify as witnesses in the case, according to the suit.
Ali claims without questioning the witnesses at issue, the judge declared a mistrial and set a new trial date for May. Ali’s counsel filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him because a second trial was barred by double jeopardy.
The motion was denied on May 1 and on May 12, Ali’s counsel filed a motion with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, but no other was issued prior to the start of the second criminal trial on May 22. On May 26, the jury returned a verdict finding Ali not guilty on all charges.
Ali, a former West Virginia University football player, claims the defendants discriminated against him based on his race and color.
Ali is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. He is being represented by Hoyt Glazer of the Law Office of Hoyt Glazer; and Jack C. Dolance of Dolance Law Office.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 5:17-cv-03386