ATF agent says he's not to blame for man's imprisonment

By Steve Korris | Aug 7, 2008

HUNTINGTON - Special agent Todd Willard of the U.S. Treasury's bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives has denied responsibility for the improper incarceration of John David Mooney.

"Plaintiff fails to allege facts which demonstrate that Agent Willard acted unlawfully or in contravention of Plaintiff's constitutional rights," assistant U.S. attorney Kelly Curry wrote Aug. 4 in a motion to dismiss him from a suit at U.S. District Court in Huntington.

"The facts as alleged in the complaint do not demonstrate that Agent Willard lied, made threats or fabricated evidence," Curry wrote.

Mooney went to federal prison in 2002 after pleading guilty to a charge that he was a felon in possession of a handgun.

He had seized the gun from his former wife in fear that she might shoot him, and he had carried it in his pants to a bar where he worked.

He spent more than five years in federal prison. His father and his mother died, and he missed both funerals.

The U.S. Appeals Court in Richmond, Va., overturned his conviction last year, finding that public defender Michael Frazier failed to plead a defense of justification.

Upon gaining freedom, Mooney sued Frazier, Willard and Huntington policemen Jeff Sexton, Scott Hudson and Chris Jackson.

The Huntington officers moved on July 30 to dismiss themselves from the suit, arguing that a complaint about Frazier's faulty representation didn't involve them.

Curry likewise argued that, "Plaintiff cannot hold Agent Willard liable for failing to inquire about, or investigate the existence of, his justification defense."

She wrote, "In fact it is not at all clear what the basis of Plaintiff's claim against Agent Willard is."

She filed the motion on behalf of U. S. Attorney Charles Miller.

Joseph Jenkins and Nicholas Preservati of Charleston represent Mooney. Michael Farrell of Huntington represents the Huntington policemen. District Judge Joseph Goodwin presides.

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