Woman says Moorefield officer sexually assaulted her

By Kelly Holleran | Feb 11, 2009

ELKINS -- A Monongalia and Grant County dual citizen is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages after she claims a Moorefield police officer sexually assaulted her during a traffic stop.

After the incident, Mary Ann Groves filed charges against officer Galen Reel, but a Hardy County jury acquitted him because of what Groves claims was juror bias.

So, Groves filed a complaint Dec. 18 against Reel and the city of Moorefield in Hardy Circuit Court.

She claims the incident occurred in the early morning hours of Dec. 30, 2006, as she was driving south on Route 220 near Petersburg.

Groves noticed Reel following her for about two miles before he pulled her over near Fisher Road, according to the complaint.

After asking Groves if she had been drinking, to which she replied she had one glass of wine at dinner, Reel told her to approach his police cruiser to look at his recently acquired K-9 unit, Apollo, the suit states.

As Groves stuck her head in the cruiser, like Reel instructed her to do, Apollo began barking loudly and lunging toward her, Groves claims.

Already fearing the dog would attack her, Groves listened as Reel told her Apollo bit someone at the police station and could attack her within a matter of seconds, even if she was given a 50- to 100-yard head start, according to the complaint.

Right after Reel finished telling Groves about Apollo, he asked her to get into the police cruiser, the suit states.

Although she was afraid the dog could attack her from its cage, Groves consented and entered the police cruiser, she claims.

Once in the cruiser, Groves asked Reel why he pulled her over, according to the complaint.

He replied she was speeding, ran a red light and swerving, then asked her to take a portable breathalyzer test, the suit states.

After Groves passed the test with a "barely detectable blood alcohol level," Reel commented that she "blew really nice," the suit states.

Telling Reel that she needed to get up early to buy her father a birthday present, Groves attempted to leave the cruiser, she claims.

But Reel began to ask Groves about her private life and eventually asked her if she liked penises, according to the complaint.

"Plaintiff Mary Ann Groves was shocked and offended by his question," the suit states.

Still, after Reel asked if Groves had a boyfriend, she replied she was celibate, she claims.

The recently divorced Reel said he didn't blame her as sexually transmitted diseases were going around the county, according to the complaint.

Telling Groves she looked good, Reel proceeded to stick his hand down her shirt and fondle her left breast, the suit states.

Terrified, Groves claims she froze while Reel stuck his hand in between her legs and began rubbing her.

"Defendant Galen Reel then asked Mary Ann Groves if that was how she liked 'it' and offered to do it differently if she wanted," the suit states.

Again, Groves tried to tell Reel she needed to leave to buy her father a present and also told him his behavior was inappropriate, according to the complaint.

"Defendant Galen Reel then grabbed plaintiff Mary Ann Groves' left hand and put it on the outside of his pants around his penis area," the suit states.

Immediately, Groves pulled away and told him, "No," she claims.

"Why not?" Reel asked, and Groves replied she barely knew him, according to the complaint.

"Defendant Galen Reel then leaned over and forcibly kissed plaintiff Mary Ann Groves and put his tongue in her mouth twice," the suit states. "Defendant Galen Reel then placed his arm around plaintiff Mary Ann Groves' neck and tried to pull her head toward his lap."

A car drove by and shone its headlights into the cruiser, which allowed Groves to raise her neck.

After that, Reel took Groves' hand and forced it onto his genitalia, she claims.

"Defendant Galen Reel began moving Mary Ann Groves' hand up and down his penis while holding his hand on top of hers," the suit states.

Again, Groves begged to go, and this time, Reel allowed her to get out of the cruiser, she claims.

But as Groves was exiting, Reel grabbed her, held her in the cruiser's doorway and made her stand behind him as he again took her hand, according to the complaint.

"Defendant Galen Reel then placed her hand around his penis and held it there while he forced plaintiff Mary Ann Groves to masturbate him until he ejaculated," the suit states.

Reel told Groves to keep the incident a secret and allowed her to go back to her car, where she wiped the semen off her hand onto a napkin, she claims.

Later, she visited a sexual assault counselor and eventually decided to report the incident, according to the complaint.

West Virginia State Police started an investigation into the incident and obtained a DNA sample from Reel that matched the DNA on the napkin, the suit states.

On June 5, 2007, a Hardy County grand jury indicted Reel for five felony counts of sexual abuse in the first degree.

Reel pleaded guilty to two lesser counts of sexually motivated battery, to which he was convicted on Jan. 9.

He resigned from the Moorefield Police Department on the same day.

Two days later, Reel said he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming he was under emotional duress at the time of the plea because his mother was sick.

On Jan. 14, the court accepted the withdrawal and another trial for Reel began on April 30.

During this trial, Reel testified that he and Groves had consensual sex on Dec. 30, 2006, according to the complaint.

He was later acquitted of all criminal charges by a Hardy County jury.

But Groves claims Reel was acquitted because he contacted anyone he knew who could be related to potential jurors and contacted the jury pool to sway their decision.

"Defendant Galen Reel's actions were a form of intimidation and harassment meant to impede or obstruct these potential jurors from performing their official duties at his trial," the suit states.

In his response to the complaint, Reel denies he sexually assaulted Groves and that he influenced the jury pool, but does admit to pulling her over.

Reel asked the complaint be dismissed because Groves fails to state a cause of action for which relief can be granted.

Again in his response to the complaint, Reel contends Groves participated in consensual sex with him and only filed the complaint to get money.

"That Plaintiff filed criminal charges against the Defendant for the sole purpose of building a civil case against the Defendant to obtain a sum of money," the suit states.

Because of the incident, Groves claims she experienced physical and mental pain and suffering, incurred medical costs, suffered physical and mental disability and lost her enjoyment of life.

In the suit, Groves claims Reel's actions were a violation of her First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and that Reel's actions were not taken in good faith.

Moorefield is liable for Reel's actions because it inadequately trained and supervised him and failed to exercise ordinary care when it hired him, according to the complaint.

Reel removed the case to federal court because the alleged claims include violations of Groves' federal rights.

But Groves claims the case should not be removed to federal court because Reel violated her rights under the West Virginia Constitution as well as the U.S. Constitution.

In addition to the compensatory and punitive damages, Groves is seeking other relief the court deems just.

Reel is seeking that the case be dismissed and that he be awarded attorney's fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

James C. Peterson and Aaron L. Harrah of Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee and Deitzler in Charleston will be representing Groves.

John H. Treadway Jr. of Moorefield will be representing Reel.

U.S. District Court case number: 08-C-101

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