MARTINSBURG – The manner in which he arrested a bank robbery suspect 18 months ago has resulted in both a civil suit, and indictment against the Jefferson County Sheriff.
Robert "Bobby" Shirley is named as co-defendant in a civil rights suit filed May 29 by Mark Daniel Haines. In his suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg, Haines, 42, alleges Shirley, 60, and 14 unidentified officers from various police agencies, who are also named as co-defendants, brutalized him despite peacefully surrendering following a high-speed chase in December 2010 from Jefferson into Berkeley County after he attempted to rob the drive-thru of a bank.
A week later, U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II announced a federal grand jury indicted Shirley for his actions in Haines's arrest. The indictment not only accused Shirley of civil rights violations, but also falsifying information.
A 'sadistic and deliberate' beating
According to the civil suit, Haines attempted to rob the drive-thru of the City National Bank at the Potomac Marketplace shopping center in Ranson. After leaving the scene with an undisclosed amount of cash, Haines was pursed by Shirley, and deputies with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.
Eventually, officers with the Charles Town and Ranson police departments joined in, and were later followed by the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department and the West Virginia State Police.
After crossing into Berkeley County, Haines drove his Dodge pick-up truck into a field across from Files Cross Road. Shortly afterwards he "stepped out of the vehicle with his hands raised in the air and offered no resistance."
Upon being placed under arrest, Haines alleges one or more of the officers pushed him "partially over the bed of his truck and began punching him repeatedly with their closed fists." Shortly after that, Shirley "climbed into the bed of the truck and kicked [Haines] repeatedly in the head with a deliberate and sadistic intention to inflict injury on [him]."
Haines alleges Shirley, and the other officers continued to brutalize him by throwing him to the ground, and stomping on his face. While on the ground, he alleges officers also punched him, and shot him with their Tazers.
After an unspecified amount of time, Haines alleges he was yanked to his feet and "dragged to a police cruiser were he was thrown repeatedly against the cruiser and tazed." Other officers on the scene, Haines maintains, had the "ability to stop the excessive use of force by their officers," but "did nothing to prevent it."
Following his arrest, Haines was taken first to BCSD's office, then by ambulance to City Hospital's emergency room in Martinsburg. During his stay at the ER, Haines was treated for multiple abrasions, contusions and fractures to his face, and ribs.
In his suit, Haines, who is currently incarcerated at the Alleghany Detention Center in Cumberland, Md., after he was sentenced last month to 19 years in prison after pleading guilty to an earlier robbery of a BB&T branch in Martinsburg, alleges the use of force by Shirley, and the other officers to arrest him was unnecessary, and violated his rights under the U.S. and state constitutions. He seeks unspecified damages, court costs, attorneys fees and interest.
He is represented by Martinsburg attorney Harry P. Waddell. The case is assigned to Judge John Preston Bailey.
The related indictment against Shirley was announced though a press release issued by Ihlenfeld's office June 5. According to the release, Shirley was indicted on one count of depravation of rights under the color of law, and one count destruction, altercation or falsification of a record in federal investigation.
As of presstime, information relating to the indictment had been posted on the federal government's online pubic records system. Nevertheless, Shirley's attorney Kevin D. Mills told the Hagerstown, Md., Herald-Mail Shirley intends to plead not guilty at his upcoming arraignment.
If convicted, Shirley faces up to 10 years in prison on the civil rights charges, up to 20 years on the falsifying charge and a $250,000 fine on both.
Third indictment against a W.Va. sheriff
Shirley's indictment is the third time this year a West Virginia sheriff has been indicted.
In January, then-Sheriff Jerry Bowman was indicted in U.S. District Court on a count of information of conspiracy against rights of citizens. The charge was the result of a joint investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District and the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office into voter fraud in Lincoln County.
The indictment accused Bowman of falsifying more than 100 absentee ballots in the May 2010 Democratic primary that benefited not only his campaign for circuit clerk, but Donald Whitten's re-election effort as county clerk. Separately, Whitten was indicted on a count of information of fraud.
In pleading guilty, Bowman, 58, agreed to resign as sheriff, and never run for elective office again. Both he, and Whitten, who also agreed to resign as part of pleading guilty, are scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 29.
Also in January, the Mason County grand jury returned a 38-count indictment against then-Sheriff David Anthony II for unrelated fraud and firearms charges stemming from using public funds to take a personal trip to Florida, and discharging a handgun over his son's head. In March, Anthony, 42, agreed to plead guilty to charges of brandishing and shooting near a dwelling and no contest to charges of fraudulent scheme and embezzlement, all misdemeanors.
In exchange for his guilty plea, Anthony, who was facing removal from office on a petition filed by the Mason County Commission, agreed to resign from office immediately, withdraw his candidacy for re-election, surrender his law enforcement certification and publically apologize for his actions. Last month, Judge David W. Nibert sentenced Anthony to 18 months in jail, and fined him $500.
Currently, Anthony is incarcerated at the Southwestern Regional Jail near Holden in Logan County.
The lawsuit and indictment come in the midst of Shirley's bid for a second term as sheriff. Four years ago, he successfully defeated his Republican opponent, James E. Watson III, in an open race for the office.
In 2008, then-Sheriff Everett Boober was constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third successive term, and unsuccessfully ran for assessor. Shirley foiled Boober's attempt at a political comeback by defeating him in last month's primary election, 2,224 to 1,227.
He faces Republican Earl Ballenger in November.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District case number 12-cv-51