Charles Town false arrest suit filed by Haitian immigrants settled

By Lawrence Smith | Dec 14, 2012

MARTINSBURG – The lawsuit filed by two Haitian immigrants claiming they were mistakenly arrested by Charles Town police last year has come to a close.

MARTINSBURG – The lawsuit filed by two Haitian immigrants claiming they were mistakenly arrested by Charles Town police last year has come to a close.

U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey on Dec. 3 ordered the dismissal of Indony and Drix Jean Baptiste’s lawsuit against the city of Charles Town after the sides announced two weeks earlier they reached a settlement through mediation. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

When contacted, Harry P. Waddell, the Baptistes' attorney, said he could not discuss the settlement due to a confidentiality agreement. The city did not respond by presstime to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by The West Virginia Record for the terms.

According to the suit, Indony accompanied Drix from their home in Ranson to Charles Town on March 30, 2011, to meet Drix’s fiancé at the Jefferson County courthouse. After he and his fiancé applied for a marriage license, Drix went with Indony to the library to await his fiancé’s return from the Division of Motor Vehicles.

While on the computers in one part of the library, Indony heard Drix cry for help from another part. Upon locating his brother, Indony said he found Drix being questioned by Charles Town Police officers James E. Knott, Jonathan T. DeSarno and Jason W. Newlin.

At that point, the suit claimed Indony intervened, informing the officers Drix could understand but not speak English. Though both claim they cooperated with all their requests, including providing identification, Drix and Indony were eventually placed under arrest and taken to the CTPD station in separate cruisers.

According to the suit, upon arrival at the station, Drix was placed in a holding cell while Indony was chained to a chair and questioned by Detective Ronald Kearns. After answering some initial questions, Indony refused to answer any more until both he and Drix were informed why they were arrested.

Kearns said they were not under arrest. Instead, he informed Indony they were brought to the station because a black man they saw arrested when on their way to the Post Office after leaving the courthouse was accused of refusing to answer questions about an unspecified crime, they claim.

About the time of the arrest, the lawsuit alleges Kearns said the manager of the Bank of Charles Town saw Indony and Drix in the vicinity and “thought you two were the guy.”

Before they could be released, Kearns told Drix and Indony they would have to be photographed and fingerprinted. After being detained for two hours, the suit says they were released and taken to their car, which was towed to the station’s parking lot after it was searched.

Knott, Kearns, DeSarno and Newlin were named as co-defendants in the suit.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, case number 11-cv-73

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