Former state senator sues sheriff's department for unlawful arrest

By Kyla Asbury | May 17, 2019

CHARLESTON — A former state senator is suing the Clay County Sheriff's Department and the Clay County Commission, alleging he was unlawfully arrested.

James Randy Schoonover, who was a state senator from 1989 until 1999, claims on Sept. 27, he was at his home in Hartland when he began experiencing chest pain and drove approximately five miles to his son's home so he could take him to the hospital, but his son wasn't home, according to a complaint filed May 15 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Schoonover then went to his brother's house, who lived approximately two miles away and was walking toward the front door when Deputy Michael Patrick Morris pulled into the driveway and demanded Schoonover's license and registration.

Schoonover claims he asked why the deputy needed it, but Morris demanded the documents again and Schoonover told him he did not have the information he needed, but that he was having chest pains and needed an aspirin.

Morris said he needed "figure out what's going on here," to which Schoonover asked, "about what?"

Schoonover claims he went inside his brother's house and took an aspirin and called Magistrate Jeffery Boggs and asked him to stay after his shift was over in the event Schoonover would be brought before him.

When Schoonover came back outside, Morris asked who he had spoken with and Schoonover told him Boggs, to which Morris said he would have to arrest him because he had called the magistrate, according to the suit.

Deputy Jonathan Holcomb then arrived and handcuffed Schoonover's right wrist to his right ankle, due to Schoonover only having one arm, and then placed him in the back of the cruiser without reading him his Miranda rights.

Schoonover claims he suffered physical injuries to his back, ankle and wrist do to Morris and Holcomb's actions.

"No reasonable police officer in Deputy Holcomb or Deputy Morris's positions could have believed that it was reasonable to handcuff the plaintiff's wrist to his ankle, given the nature of the incident, the plaintiff's non-violent conduct, the plaintiff's disabling condition, the plaintiff's age and the lack of any threat to the safety of the deputy or members of the public," the complaint states.

Schoonover claims the deputies used excessive force, their actions were cruel and unusual punishment and they violated the Constitution.

Schoonover is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. He is represented by Mark A. Atkinson and John-Mark Atkinson of Atkinson & Polak.

United State District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia Case number: 2:19-cv-00386

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