Inmate suing for $18.5 million

by John O'Brien |
Apr. 4, 2006, 4:39am

Mount Olive Correctional Complex

CHARLESTON - A man serving a term of more than 100 years has filed a lawsuit against the State of West Virginia and is seeking $18.5 million in damages.

Bobby Ross II has been fighting his sentence of 102-120 years since it was handed down in 1987, and on March 24 in Kanawha Circuit Court he filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus to determine if his imprisonment at Mount Olive Correctional Complex is lawful.

Ross lists several state officials as defendants, including former Gov. Bob Wise and John Shank and Roger Tompkins, employees of the Office of the Attorney General.

"The actions of defendants, and each of them, violated and deprived him of rights under the United States Constitution, the West Virginia Constitution and the laws of the State of West Virginia as aforesaid in the course of his state court proceedings," Ross said in a complaint he filed himself.

Ross II was convicted of breaking and entering, attempted aggravated robbery and first degree sexual abuse for an incident that took place March 19, 1987, at the residence of Cynthia Elaine Gillian.

Gillian contested that a man entered her home, pushed her onto her bed, put a pillow over her head, unbuttoned her jeans and touched her genitals.

The assailant asked if she had money, and she led him to the living room before police showed up and eventually apprehended Ross as he ran from them.

Ross' version of events has him smoking marijuana and drinking beer with Gillian before the two argued over a $300 loan. She then broke a mug over his head as the confrontation grew louder.

A neighbor called the police, and when they showed up Ross says he was drunk and afraid Gillian would claim he hit her. As he was fleeing, he said police officer L.D. Humphreys fired a shot at him.

In 1991, the state Supreme Court upheld his sentence, which features a 100-year term for the attempted robbery, that was handed down by former Kanawha Circuit Judge Patrick Casey, who was an outspoken advocate for elevating sentences to make convicts have to wait longer to get parole.

No weapon other than a beer mug was used in Ross' case, and no money was taken from Gillian's home.

Now Ross says he has been denied access to certain documents concerning his conviction, a violation of his rights.

The complaint also says that during his trial the jury was improperly advised on the literal meaning of the word "intent" on one of his charges.

A Motion to Dismiss has been filed by the defendants.

Judge Jennifer Bailey Walker has been assigned the case. Ross has been without counsel since Assistant Public Defender Wendy Campbell left her office.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-551

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