CHARLESTON – Records show an eastern panhandle municipality paid $60,000 to two Haitian immigrants who accused four of its officers of civil rights violations.
Last month, Indony and Drix Jean Baptistes’ lawsuit against the city of Charles Town, Sgt. James E. Knott, Detective Ronald E. Kerns, Senior Patrolman Jonathan Desarno and Jason Newlin was dismissed after the sides announced they reached a settlement through mediation. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed in court records.
However, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the West Virginia Record, the city disclosed it agreed to pay Indony and Drix $30,000 each. As a condition of accepting the settlement, they agreed “to refrain from otherwise publishing the details… to other third parties.”
Also, the city made the payout through its insurance carrier, Trident Insurance Services, without admitting any liability.
In their suit, the Baptistes, who are brothers, alleged after meeting Drix’s fiancé at the courthouse and running some errands on March 30, 2011, they went to the library to await the fiancé’s return from the Division of Motor Vehicles. After hearing Drix cry for help, Indony found him being questioned by Knott, DeSarno and Newlin.
Despite cooperating with all their requests, including providing identification, Drix and Indony allege they were eventually placed under arrest and taken to the CTPD station in separate cruisers. Upon arrival at the station, Drix was placed in a holding cell while Indony was chained to a chair and questioned by Kearns, they said.
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, the brothers say.
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 allegedly 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.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia (Martinsburg), case number 11-cv-73