CHARLESTON – Folks in Mingo County should charter buses to catch a red hot trial between Sheriff Lonnie Hannah and former deputy Roy Glenn Messer starting on Oct. 20.
Messer plans to call Hannah as a witness, Hannah plans to call Messer, and they both plan to call prosecuting attorney Michael Sparks.
Messer's wife Karen and other witnesses will add fuel to the fire in a contest that both sides expect to last two or three days.
U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver will preside over the proceedings.
Copenhaver occupies an awkward position, for Messer seeks to overturn a decision of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals that upheld his firing.
Messer sued Hannah and county commissioners in Mingo County circuit court last year, alleging discrimination, retaliation, harassment and intimidation.
Messer blamed Hannah for denial of his application for employment with West Virginia state police.
Messer's lawyer, Christopher Younger of Williamson, sought damages for loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, embarrassment and degradation.
He sought punitive damages for outrageous conduct.
County commissioners removed the suit to federal court in Charleston and moved to dismiss, pointing out that they voted to keep Messer on the job.
Messer dismissed the commissioners, leaving Hannah as the only defendant.
Hannah moved to dismiss, arguing that the decision of the Supreme Court of Appeals should preclude Messer's suit.
Copenhaver disagreed and decided to bring the case to trial.
Hannah's lawyer, Thomas Kleeh of Charleston, argued in a pretrial brief that Hannah fired Messer for insubordination and refusal to obey orders.