Former officer pleads guilty to civil rights charges

By Justin Anderson | Jul 7, 2009

CHARLESTON – A former Montgomery police officer pleaded guilty Monday to depriving two individuals of their civil rights during an incident while he was on duty.

Matthew Leavitt, of Glasgow, was charged in U.S. District Court in a two-count information on June 9 filed by U.S. Attorney Charles Miller.

The information said that on Sept. 26, 2008, Leavitt illegally arrested and charged Lauren Santella-Reynolds and struck her husband Twan D. Reynolds in the face with a "slap jack," a small, weighted device that has been outlawed for use by law enforcement.

According to news accounts of the incident, Leavitt and another former Montgomery officer, Shawn Hutchinson, approached their car at a 7-Eleven where they stopped to put air in their tires.

The victims suspected they were accosted by the officers because they are an interracial couple –- Lauren is white and Twan is black.

Leavitt and Hutchinson have been named in several separate civil lawsuits filed by people, including the Reynolds, who claim they were victims of rough, often racially-charged encounters with the former officers.

Hutchinson has thus far not been charged by the government.

Pursuant to Leavitt's plea, he faces up to two years in prison and $200,000 in fines. He's scheduled to be sentenced by federal Judge Joseph R. Goodwin on Sept. 24.

Also as part of the plea, Leavitt surrendered his West Virginia Law Enforcement Officer's Certification to the Governor's Committee on Crime Delinquency and Corrections.

Leavitt was represented by William Forbes.

U.S. District Court case number: 2:09-00150

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