West Virginia Man Charged With Battery for Passing Gas

Once again West Virginia has made national headlines. Linked on the Drudge Report is the headline “Man Passes Gas, Gets Charged With Battery.” I obviously had to click on that one. As I was reading the article I was thinking, “c’mon, give me a break.” Then I saw a “wv” somewhere on the page. I looked around and discovered that this happened in Kanawha County, West Virginia – South Charleston to be exact.

Jose Cruz was arrested for DUI by police in South Charleston. According to the article on WSAZ.com, “when police were trying to get fingerprints, police say Cruz moved closer to the officer and passed gas on him. The investigating officer remarked in the criminal complaint that the odor was very strong.” Jose was charged with battery on a police officer.

There are some pretty funny comments under the article on WSAZ.com. One guy said, “battery is the wrong charge – it should have been assault with a silent but deadly weapon.” Another said, “I guarantee they will use this story as the basis for an episode of “Law & Odor.” Yet another said, “Gas I better stay out of that county.” Someone else coined the term “felonious flatulence.”

Seriously though, this is a waste of taxpayer money, and as the comments prove, a joke. I won’t even bother to analyze whether or not this could be a battery. It should be a crime to charge a frivolous criminal charge. But I won’t hold my breath for that to happen.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney

Police Officers and Domestic Battery in West Virginia

From the Charleston Gazette this morning, there is an article about a Dunbar, West Virginia, police officer – George Ike Radar – who was charged with domestic battery for slapping his wife 20 times and pointing his finger into her chest.

Bravo to State Trooper E.B. McClung for arresting this jerk. But shame on the magistrate for letting him out on a $1,000 recognizance bond, which in my opinion is preferential treatment based on his status as a police officer.

The Dunbar police chief was quoted in the article as saying “everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and we need to get to the facts.” Since when do cops believe in the presumption of innocence? When one of them are charged themselves, that’s when…

Statistics (and personal observation) show that the wives of many law enforcement officers are the most battered and abused women in this country. Cops protect their own, and they know how to manipulate and abuse the system.

In fact, I was in court yesterday representing the wife of a law enforcement officer who, in preparation for filing a divorce, had his buddy law enforcement officer come over and arrest his wife for touching him in the chest. And you can be sure that she wasn’t given a $1,000 personal recognizance bond (which means they do not actually have to come up with any money). No, she was given a $2,500 cash bond, which means that she had to come up with cash or go to jail. And guess what? She was not allowed to retrieve any money or belongings from home, because (again, in preparation for his filing divorce) he immediately filed a domestic violence petition at the same time, which means that a protective order is placed into effect, and she cannot go home or see her kids.

You better believe that many cops actually are above the law, and they will not hesitate to lie or manufacture evidence to have their buddies arrest you. Then, guess what? The magistrates are also buddies with the cops, so you get a high cash bond and general unfairness in the courtroom. Then the prosecutors are also buddies with the cops and would rather put your case in front of the jury instead of pissing off the cops by dismissing the case.

Yesterday, the assistant prosecutor who appeared offered to dismiss the criminal charge if my client withdrew several motions and a hearing date in the former-couple’s divorce case! Is that not disgusting? Is that not a gross abuse of power? Is that not a violation of human rights?

When I called a spade a spade and told the assistant prosecutor that she should be ashamed of what she was doing, she said “how dare you… I have never… I have never… (blah, blah, blah).” That is actually the second time that a female prosecutor has said that to me. The first time it was said I probably deserved it, but not this time. I guess they take themselves a little more seriously than the male prosecutors. Or maybe they just refuse to sympathize with the female victims of their law enforcement buddies.

Can a cop in West Virginia really have his wife arrested and use the prosecutor to negotiate a better divorce settlement for him? Absolutely.

You can read the full article about the Dunbar officer here.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.

Greenbrier Sheriff Request State Police to Investigate Deputy Bar Brawl

From today’s Register-Herald:

Sheriff asks State Police to probe deputy bar brawl

Register-Herald Reporter

Greenbrier County Sheriff Roger Sheppard said Tuesday a request has been made asking State Police to investigate a possible bar brawl involving two off-duty deputies.

“There was an incident at a place called Lucy’s Bar, and when the officers got there, they found that possibly a couple of off-duty deputies were involved,” Sheppard said. “I took it to Prosecutor Kevin Hanson the next day.”

Located in Fairlea, Lucy’s Bar operates video poker machines and is considered a sports bar by patrons.

Records from 911 indicated a “bar fight” call was logged at 2:43 a.m. Sunday. Three deputies responded to Lucy’s Bar. The names of the deputies allegedly involved in the fight have not been released, Sheppard said.

Hanson said Sheppard asked for an outside investigation of the incident.

“I wrote a letter Monday to the State Police colonel and requested an investigation,” Hanson said Tuesday. “I have not yet heard back from the State Police.”

Sheppard also said he had not been contacted by State Police concerning the incident.

— Christian Giggenbach

Greenbrier Grand Jury Rejects Felony Charge for Sawyers

From today’s Register-Herald:

Greenbrier jury says no to felony charge for deputy

Christian Giggenbach
Register-Herald Reporter

LEWISBURG — After meeting nearly six hours Tuesday, a special grand jury rejected two possible felony indictments against a Greenbrier County sheriff’s deputy accused of severely beating Prosecutor Kevin Hanson and instead returned a true bill on a less serious misdemeanor charge of battery.

Deputy Kevin Lee Sawyers, 37, now faces the same charge originally filed against him last August before State Police upgraded the misdemeanor to a felony charge of unlawful wounding, defense lawyer Tom Czarnik said.

“The special grand jury rejected the more serious felony charges of malicious wounding and unlawful wounding,” Czarnik said afterward. “I will be asking for an early trial for my client before the May 13 primary.”

Sawyers was charged with battery after allegedly beating Hanson for more than four minutes in the driveway of his estranged wife’s Lewisburg home. Sawyers, a seven-year deputy who returned home last year after serving in Iraq, had previously filed for divorce from his wife, Amy Sawyers, who is employed as a legal assistant for Hanson.

Hanson said in September that he was at the house to pick up a dog to care for it over the weekend. He said he did not start the fight.

He spent several days in a local hospital recovering from his injuries, which included a broken nose, separated shoulder, bruises and lacerations, according to police.

Hanson, who first won office in 2001, is currently campaigning for re-election.

Special prosecutor Dan Dotson of Braxton County said Tuesday the misdemeanor trial for Sawyers will now likely go forward despite the setback on the felony charge.

The grand jury also rejected a misdemeanor simple assault charge against Sawyers, which carries the lightest possible sentence, he said.

“Do I agree with the decision? Probably not. But I respect the decision the special grand jury made today,” Dotson said. “The matter will likely go to trial now because he really doesn’t have anything to lose.”

While grand jury proceedings are private, Dotson did comment when asked why the special panel was out for such a lengthy period of time.

“Because of the nature of both the victim and the defendant, this was not a typical special grand jury. There were a lot of facts that were diametrically opposed and also a bunch of side issues that are not normally present,” Dotson said. “I did not want to be accused of not wanting to put everything there was about the case out there in the open.”

After Chief Circuit Judge James J. Rowe announced the decision of the nine-woman, six-man special grand jury in open court, the defendant was called to the front of the courtroom.

“I would like to proceed with the arraignment, but because of the nature of the alleged victim (Hanson), it is inappropriate for me to do so,” Rowe said.

Rowe said he will ask the state Supreme Court to appoint a special judge to hear the case.

Sawyers has been on paid administrative leave since his arrest.

Sheriff Roger Sheppard said a battery charge or conviction would not make Sawyer ineligible for duty as a deputy, but another legal problem could preclude him from coming back on the force.

“He’s still under a protective order and can’t possess a firearm,” Sheppard said. “That’s now the big hold-up before bringing him back on the force.”

Court records indicated Amy Sawyers filed a domestic protective order against Kevin Sawyers shortly after the August incident. She was present during the alleged fight, but no charges were filed against Kevin Sawyers in regard to her.

Czarnik said he was ready to “try this case tomorrow,” and looks forward to a jury trial.

“The felony charges could not be won,” he said. “And I don’t expect anyone to win the next one, either.”

Sawyers remains free on $2,500 bond and faces up to a year in jail if convicted.