CHARLESTON – A Cedar Grove woman has filed suit against two of the town's police officers, alleging they arrested her without justification, and would release her only if she performed sexual favors.
Patricia O'Scha filed a lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court on Oct. 14 against Matthew Leavitt and R. Curry. The suit names both Leavitt and Curry in both their individual capacities and as Cedar Grove police officers.
According to the seven-count complaint and suit -- filed with the assistance of Charleston attorneys Michael T. Clifford, Ed Rebrook III and Martin R. Smith -- O'Scha alleges Leavitt, "without probable cause" confronted her on March 15.
Though the reason for the confrontation is unclear, O'Scha further alleges Leavitt "did viciously assault and/or sexually abuse [her] by physically conducting a body pat-down."
Shortly thereafter, the suit alleges, both Leavitt and Curry took O'Scha to a mountaintop across from Warrior Way, the road off U.S. 60 leading to Riverside High School in Quincy. According to court records, O'Scha was "further subjected to physical, verbal and emotional battery, sexual groping, sexual assault on the part of …Leavitt and Curry."
Furthermore, Leavitt said he would release O'Scha if she would have sex with either he or Curry. During this time O'Scha alleges she was subjected to "belitting, humiliating …degrading … and sexually suggestive language."
O'Scha refused Leavitt's demands whereupon she was first transported to the Cedar Grove Police Station and then to the South Central Regional Jail. Though it is not stated in the suit, the Charleston Gazette reported that the charges against O'Scha in Kanawha Magistrate Court were dismissed on Oct. 10, when Leavitt failed to appear at her trial due to him serving in Iraq.
In her suit, O'Scha alleges not only did Leavitt and Curry violate her constitutional rights, but they also inflicted upon her "embarrassment, humiliation, annoyance, inconvenience [and] deprivation of liberty." She is asking for unspecified compensatory damages and "reasonable" punitive damages.
O'Scha's suit makes at least the fourth filed against an Upper Kanawha Valley municipality this year alleging police misconduct. The other three involve either the cities of Montgomery and Smithers.
In a suit he filed in May with Clifford's assistance, Clyde Sullivan alleged he was "viciously assaulted" and thrown to the ground outside his father's bar by Smithers police officer R.V. Neal. Officers from the Montgomery Police Department, identified only as John Doe #3, #4 and #5, assisted in the arrest.
On Sept. 26, also with Clifford's assistance, Twan Reynolds filed suit in Kanawha Circuit Court against Montgomery police officers Shawn Hutchinson, Matthew Leavitt and Police Chief Pete Lopez.
Reynolds, who is black, alleges Hutchinson and Leavitt not only brutalized him, but also taunted him with racial epithets following a traffic stop outside the 7-Eleven store near City Hall.
Following the incident, Montgomery's mayor fired Hutchinson for insubordination and placed Leavitt on administrative leave. The Leavitt named in the Reynolds suit is the same Leavitt in Cedar Grove named in the O'Scha suit.
On Sept. 5, Veronia Strickland, former owner of Ray's City Cab, filed suit against the cities of Montgomery and Smithers in U.S. District Court alleging Gary Purdue, a Montgomery officer of Smithers chief of police, shook her down for money. According to the suit -- filed with the assistance with Charleston attorneys Mike Callahan and Mike Kelley -- Strickland alleges, among other things, in early 2005 Perdue threatened to impound all her cabs if they picked up fares from suspected drug houses.
During Tuesday's City Council meeting, Smithers Mayor Thomas Skaggs quietly announced that Perdue tendered his resignation as police chief. Robert Keglor was named as his replacement.
Toward the conclusion of the meeting, Cathy Fox asked Skaggs to confirm a rumor that Perdue was barred from attending any council meetings. The rumor, Skaggs said, was untrue and all council meetings are open to anyone.
Regardless, Fox said she was saddened to see Perdue leave.
"He cleaned up this town and he was a wonderful chief," Fox said.
Before Skaggs could say anything more, Anthony Ciberti, the city attorney, interjected saying "I don't think we should be discussing personnel issues."
Thereafter Skaggs added, "I can't discuss anything more other than he resigned."
After the meeting, Skaggs was questioned further about Perdue's resignation. Though he did not say the reason why Perdue resigned, Skaggs did confirm it came during an executive session of a special council meeting on Sept. 22.
Perdue's resignation, Skaggs said, took effect Sept. 26.
O'Scha's case has been assigned to Judge James C. Stucky.
Kanawha Circuit Court Case No. 08-C-2024