CHARLESTON - A former Glasgow police officer alleges town officials concocted criminal charges against him in an effort to preempt his suit against them for age discrimination.
The Glasgow town council, Mayor Charles Armstrong, the police department, GPD Chief Jeffrey Stevens, and one of its officers are named as co-defendants in a civil rights lawsuit filed by James Leonard Koch, Jr.
In his complaint filed Nov. 12 in U.S. District Court, Koch, 55 and a Dixie resident, alleges Armstrong had him arrested three months ago on bogus felony forgery and drug-related charges in hopes of ruining his credibility after putting the town on notice he’d be filing suit for its indiscriminate use of an agility test.
According to his complaint, Koch was hired as a police officer by the town council on Nov. 9, 2012. At the time, he was the oldest officer in the department.
On July 31, Koch received notice he’d been approved to attend the West Virginia State Police Training Academy to complete the process of becoming a certified law enforcement officer, the suit says. However, before he could be assigned to a training class, Koch was informed he would be required to take a physical agility test at the academy on the morning of Aug. 26, he says.
Eight days later, Koch says Stevens informed him before taking the one required by the academy he would have to take a separate agility test the next day. In his complaint, Koch avers that was first time anyone informed him of a separate test.
Despite failing GPD’s test, Koch says Stevens told him he would continue to remain on the force and to proceed to take the one scheduled for Aug. 26 at the academy. Koch claims Stevens told him that the academy is responsible for all testing, and if he failed theirs, he could resubmit his application.
However, Koch alleges when he reported for duty on Aug. 18, he found a note from Stevens informing him he would need to report the next day to again take another agility test before taking the academy’s. Failure to pass it, the note said, would result in his termination on Aug. 31, the suit says.
In his complaint, Koch says he opted not to take it. He continued to work his scheduled shifts without incident or mention of the test until Aug. 27, he says.
On that date, Koch says he and his wife, Roeaster, presented Armstrong with a petition signed by 140 residents requesting he remain employed as a police officer. Like other officers, Koch asked Armstrong to let him continue training until he could get approval again to attend the academy.
However, in his complaint, Koch alleges Armstrong said, he’d “never make it” because he was “too old.” When Koch accused him of engaging in age discrimination, Armstrong asked if either he or Roeaster had any recording devices with them, Koch says.
About that time, Koch says Stevens entered the room and abruptly fired him, saying “today his your last day.” Shortly thereafter, Koch says he shook Armstrong’s hand and informed him he could expect to hear from an attorney.
According to his complaint, Koch says when he returned with his uniforms later that afternoon, Stevens pleaded with him to resign saying “it would look better on [your] resume.” However, Koch told him any resignation was out of the question since he’d already been fired, he says.
On Aug. 30, Koch says he received a call from Stevens requesting he come to town hall to pick up his final check. In his complaint, Koch says it was a ruse as when he arrived, he was arrested by Patrolman D. Kincaid.
It was not until he was in the back of the police cruiser, Koch alleges, that Stevens informed him of the charges. Upon arrival at Kanawha Magistrate Court, Stevens said he and Kincaid would be charging him with forgery of a temporary registration tag and delivery of a controlled substance.
Records show Kincaid filed the delivery charge against Koch, and Stevens the one for forgery.
In his complaint, Kincaid alleges he spoke with Shelley Casto the day before about seeing Koch sitting a vehicle in front of her house with Misty Watson on Aug. 5. Casto allegedly saw Koch give Watson an unspecified amount of the prescription medication Narco in exchange for a “blow job.”
In his complaint, Stevens alleges Koch took a marker and changed the expiration month from “5” to “6” on the temporary license tag from one of his vehicles that was repossessed on June 17.
According to his complaint, Koch alleges Armstrong tipped off certain media outlets about the arrest as part of his effort to humiliate him. Following his arraignment, Koch was booked into the South Central Regional Jail, where he remained until his preliminary hearing Sept. 10.
When Armstrong was informed the charges would be dismissed for lack of probable cause, he allegedly begged the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office not to. Koch alleges Armstrong said, “Our attorney told us the charges have to stick, because [he] is going to sue us for age discrimination.”
Records show Magistrate Tim Halloran dismissed the charges, which Koch avers in his complaint were “entirely frivolous” and lacked a “scintilla of evidence to support them.”
In his suit, Koch makes claims against the town, Armstrong, Stevens and Kincaid, for not only violations of his constitutional rights, but also malicious prosecution, false arrest/imprisonment and age discrimination. Furthermore, he makes a claim against all of them for intentional infliction of emotional distress for both enduring the allegations made in the media about being a police officer “on the other side of the law” and missing his brother-in-law’s funeral while in jail.
Because she allegedly witnessed him arrested for no reason and also had to endure the unfounded allegations, Roeaster is a co-plaintiff in the suit and makes a claim against all the defendants for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The Kochs seek unspecified damages and attorneys fees. They are represented by Charleston attorneys Maria W. Hughes and Mark Goldner.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 13-cv-28741
Kanawha Magistrate Court, case numbers 13-F-2829 & 2863