BECKLEY - A settlement has been reached in a Raleigh County man’s lawsuit alleging he was falsely arrested because of his race.
U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger on June 4 ordered Andre Thomas’ civil rights suit against the town of Mabscott and one of its police officers, M.E. Hull, dismissed after the sides announced they reached a settlement through mediation. The case was scheduled for trial on July 10.
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed in court records. Calls to Kathryn Reed Bayless, co-counsel for Thomas, and Arnold John Janicker, lead defense counsel, for the terms were not returned by presstime.
According to his complaint filed March 21, 2011, Thomas says nearly two years earlier two men, Wayne Keller and Rickey Williams, began chasing him around a parking lot an unspecified location. In the course of their alleged assault, which Thomas said was racially motivated, Keller and Williams “began striking him with a stick, and spraying him with a caustic spray.”
At a time not specified, Thomas says Hull arrived on the scene after the attack ended. Instead of arresting Keller and Williams, Hull arrested Thomas and later charged him with malicious assault.
In his complaint, Thomas avers that at no time did he provoke the attack. Instead, he says he “attempted to flee from [Keller and Williams] and avoid confrontation.”
The fact Keller and Williams were the aggressors, Thomas said, was confirmed by video taken by a nearby security camera. According to the complaint, the criminal charge was later dismissed.
After the change against him was dropped, Thomas says criminal charges were later filed against Keller and Williams. However, despite assurances by city officials they would “vigorously prosecute this criminal complaint and …seek restitution for [him],” Thomas says the charges against Keller and Williams were dismissed when “any police officer or other representative failed to appear or present evidence at any hearing.”
Thomas says Hull’s and the town’s actions, or lack thereof, were racially motivated. In his suit, he maintains the town has a pattern and practice of “detain[ing] and/or arrest[ing] African American persons without probable cause” or failing to provide police services because of race.
Included in Thomas’ suit were claims against the town for racial discrimination and violation of the state Human Rights Act.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 11-cv-181