Misconduct alleged in eight other suits

By Lawrence Smith | Jun 3, 2009

CHARLESTON - Recent lawsuits filed by Montgomery residents Thomas Hardy and Dennen Obey, records show, brings to 10 the number of complaints lodged in the last two years alleging police misconduct in the Upper Kanawha Valley.

CHARLESTON - Recent lawsuits filed by Montgomery residents Thomas Hardy and Dennen Obey, records show, brings to 10 the number of complaints lodged in the last two years alleging police misconduct in the Upper Kanawha Valley.

In nine of those suits, three officers, including Matthew Leavitt and Shawn Hutchinson, are named as defendants in at least two or more.

Below is a list of the other eight lawsuits filed in either Kanawha Circuit Court or federal district court, and their status:

1. Union Transportation Union v. Perdue, et. al. - Filed on Oct. 29, 2007, UTU, on behalf of train engineer Rick Chapman, alleged that Montgomery police officer Gary Perdue, then-police chief Lawrence Washington and Kanawha County Sheriff's Deputy B.R. Martin forced Chapman to take a breath test after a man from nearby Handley, who was lying on the tracks, was struck and killed four months earlier. A search of the train following the accident also found a gun in Chapman's luggage. In their suit, UTU claimed both the Montgomery Police and the Kanawha County Sheriff's departments were barred by federal law from conducting the breath test, and violated Chapman's constitutional rights by conducting a search of the train.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston dismissed the case on April 6 after a settlement was reached.

2. Strickland, et. al v. Perdue, et. al. - Veronia Strickland and her boyfriend, Damian Wales, say they were repeatedly harassed by Gary Perdue, a Montgomery police officer and then-Smithers police chief. In their suit filed on Sept. 5, Strickland and Wales allege Perdue, from May 2005 to Aug. 2007, would routinely stop the taxi cabs they owned and threaten them and the other drivers with citations unless they paid him $2,000. The confrontations came to a head when on Aug. 17, 2007, Strickland alleged Perdue purposefully roughed her up after an arrest only to later to release her, and not file any charges.

A tentative trial date is set for Dec. 8 in Charleston before U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin.

3. Clyde Sullivan v. City of Smithers, et. al. - Sullivan, a Smithers resident, alleges he was thrown to the ground by Smithers police officer R.V. Neal following a traffic stop in front of his home on April 6, 2008. Sullivan alleges Neal continued to harass him by first detaining him for 30 minutes two weeks later, and then on May 3 serving a warrant on the same charges filed in municipal court when the Fayette County magistrates were off-duty, resulting in him spending a night in jail.

Because the Montgomery Police Department assisted in some of the acts, they, and three John Doe officers, are named as co-defendants.

Originally filed in Kanawha Circuit Court on May 1, 2008, the case was later transferred to U.S. District Court where it is scheduled for trial on June 30 before Judge John T. Copenhaver.

4. Twan and Lauren Reynolds v. City of Montgomery, et. al. - The Reynolds', who live in Beards Fork, allege they were physically and verbally assaulted by Patrolmen Shawn Hutchinson and Matthew Leavitt following a traffic stop on Sept. 26 in front of the Montgomery 7-Eleven. The lawsuit, filed a week later, alleges Hutchinson and Leavitt verbally taunted Lauren, including using racial epithets, during her arrest while Leavitt sprayed mace on his hand, and rubbed it in Twan's face after kissing Lauren at the police station.

The Reynolds' are a mixed-race couple. Twan is black, Lauren is white.

Following the incident, Hutchinson was fired for insubordination while Leavitt was placed on administrative leave. Along with Hutchinson and Leavitt, Montgomery Police Chief Pete Lopez is named as a co-defendant in the suit.

The case is scheduled for trial on Feb. 1, 2010 before Kanawha Circuit Judge James C. Stucky.

5. Patricia O'Scha v. Town of Cedar Grove, et. al. - O'Scha alleged in a lawsuit that Cedar Grove police officers R. Curry and Matthew Leavitt held her against her will following an arrest on March 15, 2008. She alleges they took her to the hillside across from Riverside High School in Quincy and promised to release her only if she would have sex with them. When she refused, she was formally arrested, and taken to the South Central Regional Jail in South Charleston.

O'Scha filed her lawsuit four days after the charges were dismissed against her on Oct. 10 in Kanawha Magistrate Court. The reason for the dismissal was due to Leavitt's deployment to Iraq.

The Leavitt named in O'Scha's suit is same one named in the other suits. Both he and Curry are named as co-defendants in both the official and personal capacities.

The case is still in discovery, and no trial date has been set.

6. Roderick White v. City of Montgomery, et. al. - In his lawsuit filed on Nov. 12, White, who is black, alleges he was assaulted by Hutchinson and Leavitt on Sept. 29, 2007, and subjected to racial slurs when they responded to his 9-1-1 call. After he was arrested, White claims he was thrown down the stairs while his pants were still around his knees. Both Hutchinson and Leavitt are named as co-defendants.

The case is still in discovery, and no trial date has been set.

7. Michelle Emeline v. City of Montgomery, et. al. - Emeline, in a lawsuit filed on Nov. 26, alleges she was stopped by Leavitt on Jan. 12, 2008, who without probable cause patted her down in which he not only groped her, but also used sexually suggestive language. Leavitt is named as a co-defendant.

Like the Reynolds' case, Emeline's trial is scheduled for Feb. 1, 2010, before Judge Stucky.

8. Gregory Lee Payne v. City of Montgomery, et. al. - Payne, a Beards Fork resident, alleges he was arrested without justification by both Leavitt and an officer named Brown on Aug. 12. In his suit filed on Dec. 22, Payne alleges Leavitt and Brown transported him down W. Va. 61, where they let him along Cabin Creek near Interstate 64. Before then, Payne alleges they stopped once along the way where Leavitt proceeded to punch and choke him. Only Leavitt is named as a co-defendant.

Like Twan Reynolds and White, Payne is black, and alleges his arrest was racially motivated.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Louis H. "Duke" Bloom has set a trial date for April 5, 2010.

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