Lawsuit filed against Ritchie County on behalf of former deputy

As was reported in the Charleston Gazette today, on Friday, together with Ron and Scott Windom of Windom Law Offices in Harrisville, WV, we filed a lawsuit against Ritchie County, including the Sheriff of Ritchie County, and the Chief Administrator.

The Gazette reported:

A former Ritchie County sheriff’s deputy has sued the sheriff who fired him, claiming his civil rights were violated when the sheriff installed a GPS tracking device on his police cruiser without a warrant.

James Asbury, 49, of Berea, filed the lawsuit against Ritchie Sheriff Bryan Backus and Ronald Barniak, a former sheriff in Ritchie County and Backus’ chief administrator. In the complaint, which was filed in Ritchie Circuit Court on Friday, Asbury claims that Backus and Barniak have a history of violating deputies’ constitutional right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure.

Yes, even though the County owns a police cruiser in the possession of a deputy, federal law provides that a GPS search of that vehicle cannot be performed without a warrant.  Police officers have constitutional rights just like the rest of us.

What is even more interesting about this story is that my client, Jim Asbury, was a former defendant in an excessive force 1983 lawsuit I filed on behalf of Brian Sawyer – which was perhaps my most infamous case.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Opposing counsel, at least at the pre-litigation stage, is the same lawyer who represented Deputy Asbury at the two jury trials, and two Fourth Circuit appeals against me in that case.  So, same police officer involved.  Same two lawyers.  But now the one suing him is representing him.  And the one defending him is opposing him.

A little more from the Gazette article:

Asbury’s lawsuit also claims that the sheriff told grand jurors about the locations Asbury traveled while off duty and reminded them that their taxes pay for Asbury’s expenses.

“You guys need to know that I think everybody here knows me, and they know that I handle problems. Look at my record with employees in the past,” the lawsuit alleges the sheriff told grand jurors. “I try to take care of problems  It’s your money  It’s taxpayer money that he was taking from  It’s a very bad situation.”

This sheriff appears to be using a criminal grand jury as an HR department.  I guess that’s one way around the civil service rights of deputies.

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