State Police settles false arrest suit for $50K

By Lawrence Smith | Feb 1, 2013

MARTINSBURG – A Berkeley County man’s four-year old lawsuit against the West Virginia State Police has come to end.

U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey on Feb. 3 dismissed Steven S. Witt’s civil rights suit after the sides not only agreed to settle it, but also substitute the three troopers – J. J. Bowman, J.D. Burkhart and J.B. Flanigan – originally named in the suit with the State Police as the lone defendant. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed in court records.

However, according to the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management, Witt, 46, received $50,000. No details where given as to how he was to split that with his attorneys David M. Hammer, Harry P. Waddell, Christopher P. Stroech and Gregory A. Bailey.

Jason P. Foster and Lucien G. Lewin with Steptoe and Johnson received $125,021.45 for their services in defending WVSP. An additional $5,614.75 was paid to Stephen W. Cogar, Craig A. Wilger and Alessandra Fichera to conduct mediation at different stages of the case.

According to his suit originally filed on Oct. 16, 2008, in Berkeley Circuit Court, Witt, on Jan. 8, 2007, was returning from dinner with his girlfriend and three children. They are not identified in court records.

As they were pulling into the girlfriend’s home in Inwood, Bowman pulled in behind them and activated the lights on his cruiser. Shortly thereafter, Burkhart and Flanigan came on the scene.

According to the suit, the troopers where searching for a man named Dale Anderson who was wanted for, among other things, attempting to disarm and assault another trooper. Bowman approached them after receiving information Anderson could be found with Witt’s girlfriend.

Despite both Witt and his girlfriend denying he was Anderson, the troopers allegedly asked him to produce identification. Though initially reluctant to do, the suit maintains Witt did, only to have them attack and pull him out of the vehicle.

In his suit, Witt said the attack was “without provocation or justification.” Also, he maintained he “did not resist the troopers at any time.”

Nevertheless, he was first taken to the hospital, then to jail where he stayed overnight, he says.

According to the Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., Witt was charged with possession of a controlled substance, battery and obstructing a police officers. Berkeley Magistrate Joanne Overington dismissed the charges 11 months later following a motion made by Witt’s criminal attorney, B. Craig Manford, that the video taken by the dash camera in one of the cruisers differed from the narrative in the criminal complaint and did not contain audio.

The case was put on hold in December 2009 while WVSP appealed Bailey’s ruling denying its motion for summary judgment. It was placed back on the docket in February 2011 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld Bailey’s ruling.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, case number 08-cv-183

More News

The Record Network