MARTINSBURG – As one civil rights suit against him begins, another against a Morgan County deputy sheriff may soon come to an end.
Last month, Seth A. Place was named as a co-defendant in a lawsuit filed by Berkeley Springs resident Eileen Markous and her son Matthew. In the suit, Eileen alleged Place and fellow deputy Richard J. Haynes falsely arrested her on a charge of battery of a police officer when she went to MCSD’s office on Dec. 3, 2010, to ask Place why he cited Matthew for a loud muffler.
According to court records, the Morgan County Prosecutor’s Office on Sept. 11 dismissed the charge after a jury two weeks earlier acquitted Matthew on charges of battery of and obstructing a police officer. Matthew was arrested the same day when he questioned Place and Haynes why they arrested Eileen.
In their suit, the Markouses say theirs is not the first arrest Place made that led to a civil rights lawsuit. Two months before falsely arresting them, the Markouses point to Place shooting an unarmed man through the front door of his home.
According to his suit filed last year, Ulysses J. Everett, Jr. says Place arrived at his Fairview Drive home in Berkeley Springs on Oct. 6, 2010, responding to a domestic disturbance call. Prior to his arrival, 911 dispatchers informed Place that Everett’s wife Diana safely departed for a relative’s home “several miles away.”
Upon arrival, Everett says Place approached his home with a handgun in his right hand and a police dog in tow in his left. After Place identified himself as a deputy sheriff and shouted “let me see your hands,” Everett says he first opened the door only to close if after seeing the dog charge him.
According to the suit, Place then kicked the door in an effort to enter the home. After making a second unsuccessful effort to kick open door, Place then fired two shots with his handgun.
One shot struck Everett in the abdomen and the other in the right hip. After confirming Everett was unarmed, Place handcuffed him, rendered first aid and called for an ambulance.
Eventually, Everett was airlifted to Winchester Medical Center in Winchester, Va., where he underwent emergency surgery for his gunshot wounds. Later, he would undergo additional surgeries, including one for a hip replacement.
Following his release from the hospital, Everett was charged with one count of wanton endangerment. During its January 2011 term, the Morgan County grand jury indicted Everett for not only wanton endangerment, but also domestic battery, domestic assault and obstructing an officer.
The following July, the prosecutor’s office agreed to dismiss the domestic battery and wanton endangerment charges in exchange for Everett agreeing to plead guilty to the domestic assault, obstructing and a lesser charge of brandishing. Pursuant to the plea agreement, U.S. District Judge Gina Groh suspended all but 30 days of 2 ½ year jail sentence, and placed Everett on five years probation.
In their answer filed Nov. 4, 2011, Place and the Morgan County Commission, which is named as co-defendant in the suit, deny he used excessive force when arresting Everett.
Two months ago, both Wendy Greve, lead counsel for Place and the Commission, and John Bryan, Everett’s attorney, filed a joint motion asking for Judge John Preston Bailey to continue the scheduled March 19 trial date. In their motion, Greve and Bryan said they were unlikely going to complete discovery by the Dec. 17 deadline due to, among other things, the inability to reach “mutually agreeable dates” to depose witnesses, and obtain Everett’s medical records.
Also, since the deadline fell “squarely in the middle of the holiday season,” they said “the likelihood of achieving a settlement in this matter via informal negotiations would be increased by a continuance of the Scheduling Order.”
However, Bailey on Oct. 10 denied the motion. In his order, Bailey said that not only did Greve and Bryan have a full year to conduct discovery since he entered the scheduling order last December, but also they were the ones who suggested the Dec. 17 deadline.
Also, Bailey said that in addition to there being more than sufficient time to conduct discovery, the deadline to mediate the suit was not until Feb. 1.
Records show no activity has occurred in the case since Bailey’s ruling. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for March 8.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, case numbers 11-cv-84 (Everett) and 12-cv-139 (Markous)