A couple of days ago, the Charleston Gazette-Mail did an expose’ story on a series of 4 lawsuits against a West Virginia State Trooper. 3 of those lawsuits were my cases. They are now settled.
Four men have sued the same West Virginia State Police trooper in federal court over the past 18 months, alleging he beat them and caused broken ribs, concussions and spinal damage.
Senior Trooper Ralph Justus has been on paid administrative leave for a year, as he is the subject of an active internal investigation, according to State Police. No allegations in the lawsuits line up with the March 2017 administrative change.
Two of the men who sued Justus, Aaron Akers and Antonio Tolliver, settled their lawsuits last December for a combined total of nearly $190,000. Justus allegedly beat the two men in the hallway of the State Police detachment in Welch, beyond the range of building security cameras. Their settlements note they are resolutions of disputed claims, and the defendants are not admitting liability.
Another alleged victim of a hallway beating from Justus, Michael Ferguson, signed a settlement agreement for $75,000 earlier this month. A judge still needs to formally dismiss the case.
A funny part of the story, at least in a sad-funny sort of way, is that the defendant trooper was named “Policeman of the Year” by a local American Legion post. This was for 2017. According to the article, he was on administrative leave for 9 months of 2017, presumably due to allegations of misconduct. Low bar, I guess.
Frank Cooley, a member of the post, spearheaded efforts to find a state trooper to award. He said while he did not remember Justus by name, the post generally makes its picks by calling a branch’s commandeer, asking for recommendations and voting on the shortlist internally. Two lawsuits had been filed against Justus months before the post issued its award.
Frank, you had ONE JOB.