MARTINSBURG – Eleven days after being sentenced to a year in prison for using excessive force during the arrest of a bank robbery suspect, former Jefferson County Sheriff Robert Shirley has settled the civil lawsuit against him.
During a mediation conference on May 24, Shirley and several of his co-defendants reached a $90,000 settlement with Mark Haines, who alleged he was beaten during an arrest on Dec. 27, 2010.
Shirley, accused of kicking Haines in the head, pleaded guilty to deprivation of rights under the color of law earlier this year and on May 13 was sentenced to one year and one day in prison by U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey.
“The settlement demonstrates that in the United States, no one is above the law, including the police,” said Harry P. Waddell, Haines’ attorney.
Haines is currently serving a 225-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to robbing a BB&T in Martinsburg.
In June 2012, a federal grand jury indicted Shirley on charges relating to his arrest of Haines 18 months earlier. According to both the indictment and the civil suit Haines filed, Shirley recklessly beat and kicked Haines following a high-speed chase on Dec. 27, 2010.
Shirley and deputies with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department began their chase of Haines after receiving a report he attempted to rob the drive-thru of the City National Bank at the Potomac Marketplace shopping center in Ranson.
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 Haines stopped his pick-up truck in a field across from Files Cross Road, he stepped out of the vehicle with his hands in the air. After one or more of the officers pushed him against the bed of truck, Shirley “climbed into the bed… and kicked [him] repeatedly in the head with a deliberate and sadistic intention to inflict injury on [him],” it was alleged.
In the civil lawsuit, Bailey recently ruled that Shirley can’t be sued “in his official capacity.”
Official capacity claims are not claims against the defendant named, but the entity he or she represents. In this case, Shirley would have represented the Jefferson County Commission.
Had Haines succeeded on his official capacity claim, he would have recovered damages from the commission, not Shirley. Bailey’s ruling was issued April 16.
The lawsuit named six deputies and one trooper as co-defendants. State Trooper Joseph Bush did not join the settlement, and the claim against him remains.
Recently, Haines moved to add two former Shepherdstown police officers as defendants. The motion to amend his complaint to do so was filed May 15.
Waddell said the $90,000 settlement is being paid by the insurer of Shirley and Jefferson County and the six Berkeley County deputies.
That insurer, West Virginia Counties Group Self Insurance Risk Pool, filed a lawsuit March 15 in Jefferson Circuit Court that argued it had no obligation to defend or indemnify the defendants in Haines’ lawsuit.
The Risk Pool said the coverage contract contained an Expected or Intended Injury Exception.
A video of Haines’ arrest can be viewed here.
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.