West Virginia Record

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Justices uphold ruling in Roane drunk driving, beating case

By Steve Korris | Apr 16, 2008

CHARLESTON- In one of their easier decisions, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals declared that Owen Hawk III was drunk when he drove the wrong way without lights, sped away from the sheriff, T-boned a cop car and smashed three more vehicles.

The Justices on April 7 unanimously affirmed Circuit Judge Thomas Evans III, who sent Hawk to the state penitentiary for a year to five years.

Hawk argued that a suspect in a separate crime could have testified to his sobriety, but the Justices didn't believe the testimony would have changed the trial's outcome.

They held in an unsigned opinion that at trial, "extensive evidence was presented indicating that the Appellant was under the influence of alcohol."

The Justices also rejected Hawk's claim that police beat him.

Hawk caught the attention of Roane County Sheriff Todd Cole at the courthouse in Spencer one night in 2005, driving the wrong way without lights.

Cole turned on his blue lights, and Hawk hit the gas.

Cole radioed for help. Police officer Roger Simons responded, stopped his patrol car sideways across Hawk's path and jumped out.

Hawk's car slammed through the cruiser and struck three parked vehicles.

All available officers rushed to the scene.

"Because the driver's door was blocked by the collision, officers pulled the Appellant out of the passenger window," the Justices wrote.

"It is the Appellant's contention that he was pushed head first into the pavement," they wrote.

Officers tested his breath for alcohol and he failed the test. Then they took him to Roane County Emergency Center for evaluation of a head wound.

Then they took Hawk to the regional jail, but jailers wouldn't accept him. They referred him to Braxton General Hospital.

After the hospital cleared Hawk, the jail accepted him.

Police charged him with fleeing while under the influence of alcohol.

The night before trial, someone slipped a note under the office door of defense attorney Teresa Monk of Spencer. The note identified John Phillips as a possible defense witness.

Police had arrested Phillips the same night, and Phillips had seen deputies exchange custody of Hawk for his trip to the jail.

Monk moved to continue the trial. Evans denied the motion, ruling that Phillips was not a material witness.

Jurors convicted Hawk, Evans sentenced him, and Monk appealed.

The Justices concluded that testimony from Phillips wouldn't have mattered.

"Mr. Phillips was not present during the alleged commission of the crime," they wrote. "Nor was Mr. Phillips placed in the same car."

Assistant attorney general Christopher Smith represented the state.

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West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals