Another lawsuit names former Montgomery officers

By Justin Anderson and Lawrence Smith | Jun 15, 2009


CHARLESTON – A Fayette County woman is the latest to accuse former Montgomery police officers Shawn Hutchinson and Matthew Leavitt of misconduct.

Tonya Terrell filed a lawsuit June 4 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Hutchinson, Leavitt, Smithers police officer Adam Roberts and the respective cities.

Hutchinson and Leavitt are named in several lawsuits alleging often racially charged misconduct.

Terrell,27, claims she was pulled over by Roberts on June 5, 2008 without probable cause. Terrell says Roberts interrogated her and then placed her in handcuffs.

According to the complaint, Roberts then made a call on his cell phone. Subsequently, Terrell alleges that Hutchinson showed up in street clothes and driving his personal vehicle.

Terrell says Hutchinson flashed a business card that identified him as a member of the "Valley Narcotics Task-Force." Terrell claims Hutchinson proceeded to put his hand down her pants and beneath the underwear in her vaginal area.

Terrell claims Hutchinson told her that she could avoid going to jail if she would help them on some drug buys. The plaintiff says she tried to maneuver to get Hutchinson's hand out of her pants and he pressed against her chest and asked if she would be willing to trade sexual favors for not going to jail.

Terrell says she refused. She alleges that Roberts then made the same proposition to her and she refused.

At that time, Terrell says Roberts placed her under arrest and put her in the back of his cruiser. Terrell claims that Roberts told her he would make her life a "living hell" if she told anyone about what happened.

Terrell was taken to Montgomery General Hospital where she submitted a urine sample, she claims.

On the way to South Central Regional Jail in Beaver, Terrell claims Roberts turned his radio on loud static even though she told him she was having a migraine. Roberts also allegedly drove fast and reckless on the way to the jail.

At the jail, Terrell says Roberts warned her again not to tell anyone about what had happened.

Records in Fayette County Magistrate Court show Terrell was charged with one count each of DUI, driving on a suspended license, no proof of insurance and possession of a controlled substance. She was released on $1,500 bond.

Four months later, all but the driving on a suspended license charge was dismissed. On that charge, Terrell pled no contest, and agreed to pay a $100 fine, and $159.53 in court costs.

On Aug. 11, 2008, Terrell says that Leavitt pulled her over in Kanawha County. She claims the officer made a derogatory comment about waiting to pull her over because she was in an interracial relationship.

She says Leavitt subsequently charged her with driving while revoked. She claims she was later acquitted of the charge.

Kanawha County Magistrate Court records show Leavitt, while in the process of conducting a traffic stop on 4th Avenue in Montgomery, observed Terrell drive by him in silver Chrysler. Having "prior knowledge of her being revoked for DUI due to a recent DUI arrest," Levitt, in the criminal complaint he filed, says "I then ended my previous traffic stop and followed the defendant to her residence" on 3rd Avenue in Montgomery.

According to the complaint, Leavitt did not stop Terrell before she got to her apartment, but exited his vehicle and asked to see her driver's license. Records show Terrell initially refused, and continued to walk to the door of her apartment saying that if Leavitt did not leave "she was going to call 911 and her lawyer."

After her husband, Michael, called 911, Terrell and Leavitt continued to argue at her front door. Eventually, she gave her license to Leavitt, who after verifying it had been revoked, arrested her for driving on a revoked license for DUI, and obstructing an officer.

This time, Terrell did not spend a night in jail, and was released on a $1,500 personal recognizance bond. The charges were dismissed by Magistrate Tim Halloran on Nov. 19.

Shortly after Terrell's second arrest, Leavitt was suspended pending an investigation into allegations he and Hutchinson brutalized Twan Reynolds and verbally taunted his wife, Lauren, with racial epithets following a traffic stop outside the Montgomery 7-Eleven. The Terrell's, like the Reynold's, are a mixed-race couple.

In her suit, Terrell alleges that Leavitt said to her that "he had been waiting to pull over a 'nigger lover' like her."

Terrell is seeking compensatory and punitive damages on grounds of constitutional violations and assault and battery. Her orginial complaint also makes claims for hate crimes, violation of the state Human Rights Act, negligent hiring, retention and supervision.

Records show, on June 11, a claim of malicious prosecution was added.

Anthony M. Salvatore is representing the plaintiff. The case is before Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman.

Terrell's suit now brings to 10 the number of pending lawsuits alleging misconduct by police departments in the Upper Kanawha Valley. Of those 10 suits, eight name Leavitt and/or Hutchinson as co-defendants.

On June 9, Leavitt was indicted in U.S. District Court on two counts of information for depriving the Reynolds' of their civil rights.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 09-C-1028 (Terrell civil)
Kanawha Magistrate Court case numbers: 08-M-11286 & 11287
Fayette Magistrate Court case numbers: 08-M-1373-1376 (Terrell criminal)

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