WHEELING – The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia has filed a lawsuit against a West Virginia State Police trooper it alleges committed unethical behavior and unlawful treatment of an individual.
The lawsuit names Trooper Michael S. White II; Col. J. L. Cahill; James W. Davis Jr.; Jack Wood; and Hancock County as defendants.
On June 26, 2015, White came to David Jones’ home, where he arrested him, according to a complaint filed June 30 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.
Jones claims White did not have a warrant for arrest and no exigent circumstances were present, but that White arrested him based solely upon speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article III, Section 7 of the West Virginia Constitution.
After the arrest, White prepared a criminal complaint, initiating State v. David Jones in Hancock County Magistrate Court, according to the suit.
Jones claims the criminal complaint resulted from a Facebook post allegedly made by Jones on June 24, 2015.
The Facebook post at issue was a clear example of political speech and, despite the fact that the Facebook post was protected speech, White arrested Jones without a warrant, without exigent circumstances or probable cause, solely because of and in retaliation for his speech, according to the suit.
Jones claims that White did not inquire with a supervisor regarding whether he should make an arrest based on the Facebook post. The defendants charged Jones with a felony count of terrorism.
On July 1, 2015, the state voluntarily dismissed the criminal complaint, however, Jones was not released from custody, according to the suit.
Jones claims he was kept in custody with no criminal charges pending because White was in the process of preparing new complaints, which he did—alleging violations of West Virginia code for retaliation against a public official for two Facebook posts made in July and August 2014.
The plaintiff was incarcerated for 20 days and the defendants, at all relevant times, were acting under color of state law and in accordance with policies, practices and procedures of Hancock County, according to the suit.
Jones is seeking compensatory damages. He is being represented by Jamie Lynn Crofts of ACLU-WV and Jerry R. Krzys of Henderson, Covington, Messenger, Newman & Thomas Co.
“The facts of this case are outrageous,” Crofts said “Mr. Jones, a local political activist and Air Force Veteran, was arrested without a warrant and criminally prosecuted for expressing his political views.”
Crofts said Jones’ bail was set at an unreasonably high amount and he spent nearly a month in jail before he was able to return to his family.
“This is simply unacceptable,” Crofts said.
Krzys said free speech is the cornerstone of a civilized society.
“Only with free speech may citizens debate the principals and values with which they consent to abide,” he said. “If we do not protect unpopular speech or speech with which the government may disagree, we create a recipe for tyranny.”
Krzys claim the Hancock County Prosecutor’s office and the West Virginia State Police flagrantly violated the principals that they had taken oats to uphold when Jones was illegally prosecuted.