State Police settle brutality suit with Charleston attorney for $200K

By Lawrence Smith | Oct 8, 2009


CHARLESTON - One of two lawsuits a Charleston attorney filed stemming from injuries he sustained following a DUI arrest two years ago has come to a conclusion.

On Oct. 1, Roger A. Wolfe agreed to settle a civil rights lawsuit against the West Virginia State Police, and four of its troopers, Paul A. Green, Jason S. Crane, J.K. Rapp and Kristy L. Lane. According to records in the U.S. District Court in Charleston, WVSP agreed to pay Wolfe $200,001.01.

Also, WVSP agreed to later pay reasonable costs and fees Wolfe's attorneys, Benjamin L. Bailey and Jonathan L. Marshall, incurred in pursing the suit. As part of the settlement, WVSP made no admission of guilt as to the allegations Wolfe leveled against it, and the four troopers for brutalizing him in June 2007.

One night, two lawsuits

According to the criminal complaint filed against him in Kanawha Magistrate Court, Wolfe, a senior labor law attorney with the Charleston office of Jackson Kelly, was arrested, and charged on June 17, 2007, with one count each of DUI, improper lane change, failure to obey a traffic light and obstructing an officer. Green, who was leaving magistrate court, pulled Wolfe over when he noticed Wolfe driving a Jeep erratically down Quarrier Street.

Upon asking Wolfe to exit his vehicle when he suspected Wolfe had been drinking, Green said Wolfe "repeatedly become belligerent, cursing and making inappropriate comments." Shortly thereafter, Green placed Wolfe under arrest.

According to the suit he originally filed against WVSP and the troopers in Kanawha Circuit Court on July 21, 2008, Wolfe alleges Green transported him to the State Police barracks in South Charleston for processing. When he refused to answer a question from Layne as to what he was smiling about, Wolfe alleges both she and Green took him into a separate room where they beat him.

The beating took place while Wolfe says his hands were handcuffed behind his back, and the video cameras were turned off. He alleges the beating he took from Layne and Green was so severe that spinal fluid leaked out his nose.

Later, Wolfe was taken to Thomas Memorial Hospital for evaluation. He alleges that Rapp, a supervisory trooper, convinced Jason Tackett, the attending physician in Thomas' emergency room that day, to question Wolfe before treating him in attempt to cover-up the alleged beating.

Prior to the one he filed against the troopers, Wolfe filed against suit against Tackett, and Emergency Medical Physicians of Kanawha County PLLC, the medical staffing company that employs Tackett, for civil conspiracy. That suit was transferred to U.S. District Court on Sept. 19, 2008, but later remanded back to Kanawha Circuit Court on April 9.

After he was treated and interviewed at Thomas, Wolfe was later transported to CAMC where he remained hospitalized for the next five days.

Wolfe's suit against the troopers was transferred to U.S. District Court on Aug. 25, 2008.

In addition to the judgment paid to Wolfe for $200,001.01, the state of West Virginia paid an additional $125,743.08 in legal costs, according to the Board of Risk and Insurance Management. The bulk of legal fees went to the law firms of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown and Poe, $47,853.43, and Steptoe and Johnson, $50,244.52.

Since it was remanded back to state court, the suit against Tackett and EMPKC is scheduled for a status hearing on Nov. 6 before Judge Louis H. "Duke" Bloom. In his Sept. 23 order setting the hearing, Bloom said "No continuances will be granted except upon application and good cause shown."

Also, before Bloom is a motion Wolfe made on Aug. 14 to amend his complaint. In addition to ones for negligence, aiding and abetting an assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy, Wolfe wants to aid a claim of medical malpractice.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 08-cv-1023
Kanawha Circuit Court, case number 08-C-1187

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