Barbour Co. sheriff accused of sexual assault, denies allegations

By John O'Brien | Jul 22, 2013

ELKINS – The Barbour County sheriff is accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit recently filed by a woman who was seeking a job as a 911 dispatcher.

The lawsuit alleges Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins sexually assaulted five other women other than plaintiff Brittany Mae Keene, who also claims she was arrested in retaliation for the accusations she is making. Also named as a defendant is the Barbour County Commission.

Keene says the assault took place in 2011 at a job interview in a camper owned by the county that was located at the Barbour County Fairgrounds. She was 17 years old at the time of the alleged assault.

“Defendant Hawkins proceeded to ‘interview’ Plaintiff and then abruptly declared that if Plaintiff wanted the job, she would have to sleep with him,” says the complaint, filed July 18 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.

“Plaintiff refused and attempted to exit the camper. Defendant Hawkins then slammed Plaintiff face-forward against the wall of the camper and handcuffed her hands behind her back.”

In order to silence her, Hawkins stuffed either a bandana or handkerchief in her mouth, the suit says. It also claims he inserted a cucumber in her rectum.

Hawkins first issued a response on his Facebook page, then issued a formal response.

"First and foremost, I deny the allegations in the complaint," Hawkins said.

"Unfortunately in today's society issues like these are tried more in the 'Court of Public Opinion' than in our judicial system, where they belong.

"Over the next few months, this lawsuit will proceed. Both sides have attorneys who will exchange information and negotiate. The outcome, the plaintiff seeks money for damages caused by her allegations.

"Either they will get money or they won't. That will be up to a jury to decide. The jury will be picked from the same citizens who will have been blitzed by the media coverage of this."

Keene claims Hawkins told her he would kill her if she said anything to her.

The complaint says five other females have been sexually assaulted by Hawkins and that the plaintiff will disclose their names upon agreement with the defendants regarding the use of their names.

Those assaults allegedly took place in at the Barbour County Courthouse, in Hawkins’ police cruiser, in the evidence room and at a shooting range.

The lawsuit lists 15 counts, including unlawful arrest, excessive force, civil conspiracy, tort of outrage, assault, battery, negligent retention and hiring and false imprisonment.

After the alleged assault, Keene filed a domestic violence protection order petition against him. In May 2012, she was arrested on a felony charge of receiving stolen property and a misdemeanor charge of transferring stolen property.

WBOY reported that she was alleged to have stolen two guitars from a church. The indictment was dismissed.

Keene claims the indictment was filed in retaliation for her claims against Hawkins. She is represented by Paul J. Harris and Shawn L. Flaherty of Wheeling.

Despite the issue gaining some media attention last summer, Hawkins, a Democrat, won re-election in November.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at

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