Help us sue the WV Governor over his new Covid-Tyranny

Today the West Virginia Governor issued yet another Executive Order – E.O. 77-20, which has “amended” the existing “mask mandate” issued by him in July. He’s now issued hundreds of pages of executive orders since first declaring a state of emergency back in March. He now mandates that everyone wear a mask in “all public indoor places,” presumably referring to any structure inhabited by “the public,” as it now seeks to force property owners and small businesses to enforce his unconstitutional edicts, and will punish them for not doing-so.

Even worse than the order itself, are the comments the Governor made when informing the peasants about his new law.

“Beginning at midnight tonight, I will issue a mandatory requirement to wear a face covering indoors in all public buildings at all times. This is not just when social distancing cannot be maintained, this is mandatory wearing your face covering in all buildings, at all times, other than your home,” Justice said.

West Virginia Gov. Justice issues tough new mandatory face mask order; pushes back winter prep sports to Jan. 11

So, while the order itself uses weaker and more ambiguous language, the Governor’s direct threats to the public said “all public buildings.” The actual order says “when individuals are able to physically isolate in a physically separate office or other space when no others are present….” As usual, the tyrant places responsibility for enforcement of his edicts on the already-suffering small businesses, as well as the employees. Although the order didn’t mention it, he says the next step is “closure” of the business for non-enforcement.

He also (apparently waiving attorney-client privilege) says that his lawyers said that if the peasants don’t follow his order, business owners are to call the police. Moreover, if someone isn’t following his order, “they’re obstructing justice,” presumably the misdemeanor criminal charge of obstructing an officer. He also threatened that business owners/operators who don’t follow and enforce his order will also be charged with misdemeanor criminal obstruction (which is punishable by up to a year in jail).

The governor also warned that if business owners don’t enforce his rules, “the next step will have to be closure.”

Justice also signaled law enforcement, citing conversations with legal counsel.

If patrons don’t follow the order, Justice told business owners to call the police. And if someone isn’t following the mask mandate, they’re obstructing justice, Justice said. The governor also said an obstruction of justice charge would apply to business owners/operators that are flaunting the rule.


West Virginia Gov. Justice issues tough new mandatory face mask order; pushes back winter prep sports to Jan. 11

By the way, there is no such thing as “obstruction of Justice” in West Virginia. I’m not convinced he wasn’t referring to himself in the third person when he said that, but in any event, “obstruction of an officer” is the crime on the books in West Virginia, and it’s a misdemeanor which carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail. Fortunately, it’s not as vague as the federal crime of “obstruction of justice,” and actually requires a court to look at what the officer who was allegedly obstructed was investigating. Generally, if it is a felony crime under investigation, you “obstruct” an officer by lying to him or failing to identify yourself, under some circumstances. If it’s a misdemeanor, you are allowed to lie, or fail to identify yourself, generally. You cannot commit “obstruction” in West Virginia by doing something you are legally allowed to do. Read all about it in the controlling West Virginia case on “obstruction” in State v. Carney. In any event, only the legislature could amend the obstruction statute.

Meanwhile, the Governor has chosen not to call a special session of the legislature, and instead, has continued to rule by executive fiat, which is unconstitutional under the West Virginia Constitution. This cannot be allowed to continue. Numerous friends and clients of mine have resolved to file suit as soon as possible. We will file a challenge in West Virginia State Courts, as well as possibly federal court. We previously filed a challenge before the State Supreme Court, but were denied the relief we requested – probably on procedural grounds. We will begin the suit in the lower Circuit Court so as to avoid any technical procedural defenses. There must be a ruling on this constitutional crisis, in both the state and federal courts.

Here’s the original lawsuit we filed, if you want to read in detail my explanation on why these executive orders are in blatant violation of our West Virginia Constitution. We do already have one federal challenge pending on behalf of the Bridge Cafe & Bistro Restaurant in Putnam County, West Virginia. That case is still pending, and you can read the federal lawsuit in full at the link, as well as the explanation of why the E.O.’s are unconstitutional on federal grounds.

So far the petitioners will be the following State legislators: S. Marshall Wilson, Michael Azinger, Jim Butler, Thomas M. Bibby, and Mark Dean. In addition, we will include a representative sample of patriotic West Virginia owned small businesses, such as restaurants, gyms, and barber shops/hair salons. We may also include churches and private schools. There will be other private plaintiffs as well, including Tabitha Simmons who has thankfully started a gofundme fundraiser to cover legal expenses. I’ve already spoken with one other experienced WV lawyer who has agreed to assist on the case, and would like to bring in more (possibly Civil Rights lawyers from other states, if we can raise the money). So if you can help Tabitha raise the funds needed, please do. 100% of the funds will go towards this litigation against the tyrannical actions of the Governor. Here is the link:

GoFundMe for Legal Expenses to Help us Sue the WV Governor

Additionally, I will be on the Tom Roton Morning Show to discuss this new tyranny, first thing Monday morning – at around 8:00 a.m., I believe. We may also be planning a protest at the State Capitol, or possibly elsewhere. So please stay tuned……

ETA 11/16/20: We are putting together a legal team to file suit as soon as possible. For those of you small business owners concerned about the Governor’s threats to close your business and have you arrested, etc.., we believe this may implicate federal 4th Amendment protections. The Governor has threatened criminal arrest and prosecution for violations of his “mask mandate.” You are within your rights to ask for a warrant and to refuse consent to any government official entering your home or business pursuant to the Governor’s executive order. That won’t stop them, necessarily. But they will make themselves defendants in lawsuits afterwards. We believe this is applicable to county health officials as well. Video footage may be crucial.

Live Video on the Fight: Monday evening, 5:30 pm, Eastern:

ETA 11/17: BREAKING: Yesterday we filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in the Bridge Cafe & Bistro case, challenging the constitutionality of the Governor’s Friday statements and his new enhanced mask mandate. The Southern District of WV just now ordered the Governor to respond by 5pm this Thursday, and scheduled a hearing for November 23 at 10 am in federal court in Huntington.

Summersville Speed Trap/Scam on Route 19 in West Virginia Claims an Innocent Disabled Man

UPDATE 8/20/18:  Our FaceBook post on the topic.

UPDATE 8/17/18: I obtained the Criminal Complaint from the incident.  It is indeed signed by both the sheriff’s deputy who was the arresting officer, as well as the Summersville PD officer.  It’s not a notarization, but it is a signature.  While it doesn’t make sense as to why they did it that way, that process would be legal.  The following is the full text of the narrative, which is sworn under oath as the probable cause basis for the arrest:

ON THE ABOVE DATE IN SUMMERSVILLE NICHOLAS COUNTY, WV, I CONDUCTED A TRAFFIC STOP ON A MAROON CHEVY COLORADO BEARING WV REG. XXXXXX FOR NO BRAKE LIGHTS.  THE DRIVER WAS IDENTIFIED AS JEFFREY JONES.  WHILE SPEAKING TO THE DRIVER I OBSERVED HIM TO BE DISORIENTED, DROWSINESS, CONFUSED, BLOOD SHOT EYES, AND HE DID HAVE SLURRED SPEECH.  MY FIRST OBSERVATION HE WAS SWEATING PROFUSELY AND DID HAVE HIS HEAT ON IN HIS TRUCK. HE WAS ALSO FUMBLING HIS ITEMS AND DROPPING MONEY OUT OF HIS WALLET.  I PERFORMED THE HGN TEST ON JEFFREY AND WHILE ADMINISTERING THIS TEST HE DID SHOW IMPAIRMENT. JEFFREY WAS TAKEN TO SRMC FOR A BLOOD DRAW.  WHILE UNDER MIRANDA, JEFFREY DID ADMIT THAT HIS BROTHER KENNY HAD GIVEN HIM A PILL THAT HIS WIFE TAKES FOR ARTHRITIS AND PAIN. A DRE EVALUATION WAS DONE ON JEFFREY. THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS COMPLAINT IS BASED ON THIS OFFICERS INVESTIGATION.

According to Mr. Jones’ brother, they picked his truck up later that same day/night at the local impound for the exorbitant sum of $350.00, and it was driven home, with a vehicle following behind.  The brake lights worked just fine.  The narrative included no allegations of improper driving.  That means, the only basis for the stop was for a improper equipment violation which didn’t exist.  In other words, it appears to be a lie.  Without improper driving, what other information did this deputy have to want to stop Mr. Jones?  The only information he had was the color of Mr. Jones’ skin.  This is unfortunate, but not unheard of.  The same basis was used to stop my client Antonio Tolliver.  That state trooper is now a former state trooper.

What does that mean?  If the State/Prosecutor can’t prove that the vehicle had no brake lights, in light of testimony and evidence from Mr. Jones’ family and friends that the car’s brake lights worked just fine, the stop will have been illegal.  Under the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine, everything that happened subsequently, is inadmissible in court.  Even assuming the blood draw was legal, which is a big “if,” and the supposed statement about the pill for arthritis and pain was legal, they cannot be used against Mr. Jones.  The arrest, and everything which happened afterwards,  is unconstitutional and illegal.

So he’s driving perfectly normal, gets pulled over for an equipment violation which doesn’t exist, gets put through field sobriety tests and supposedly fails.  So why at that point didn’t they give him a breathalyzer?  Instead they call Deputy Junk Science to arrive, who took a class on recognizing people who had taken prescription drugs?  Then forcibly taken to a hospital and forcibly withdraw blood from his body? He was driving normally, and wasn’t bothering anyone.  The only thing he did wrong was drive into a notorious speed trap, where officers are itching to pull over someone who looks like they’re coming down from one of the rust belt cities with a load of heroin.  Which brings us back to racial profiling.  It would be interesting to look at some of the other cases of stops on Route 19 in Summersville over the past few years.


Yesterday, WVVA ran a story about Jeffrey Jones, a man local to Greenbrier County, who had an unfortunate encounter with the police in Summersville, West Virginia – a place with the reputation as a well known speed trap extortion racket.  As a disclaimer, I don’t represent him in any way, but I do know the man since he works at my local Kroger.  He is the nicest guy, always smiling, and always helpful.  Everyone loves him.  What other grocery store employee has customers that take photos such as these?

 

These photos speak for themselves, which were posted on the WVVA website.  From the article:

SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. (WVVA) Jeffrey Jones of Lewisburg is no stranger to hard knocks. As a child, he battled Spinal Meningitis, a condition that left him 90 percent deaf and with one leg longer than the other.

“Growing up, I had Meningitis. Everyone always thought I was stupid because I couldn’t hear. And because I was the smallest in the class, everyone picked on me.”

Despite the physical limitations, Jones said he never misses at day of work keeping track of the carts at the Ronceverte Kroger; the same place where his family said he was hit by a car a couple years ago and broke a hip.

“He stops and checks on everyone everywhere he goes,” said his friend Brianna Barkley. “There’s not a person that’s a stranger. He spreads happiness and friendship to everyone he sees.”

That job may be in jeopardy after Jones said he was unlawfully stopped by a Nicholas County Sheriff’s deputy on Sunday, August 5th, for a broken brake light. He was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

Then there was a phone call from a local legislator, to the Attorney General’s Office on his behalf:

Through his work at Kroger over the years, Jones has made friends from all walks of life, including Greenbrier County Del. Jeff Campbell, (D) 42nd Dist., who on Tuesday, personally requested the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office for an investigation.

“I would like to see the charges dismissed. I would like to see the $350 he spent to get his truck out of impound reimbursed. I think his wages should be reimbursed. And I’d like to see an apology.”

Oops.  So the Summersville Chief of Police contacts the news station and makes a stunning denial:

UPDATE: Summersville Police Chief John Nowak said Thursday his officers did not participate in the arrest of Jeffrey Jones on Sunday, August 5th.

Although Patrolman R.L. McClung with the Summersville Police Dept. signed both pages of the criminal complaint, the chief said the officer merely notarized the document for the arresting officer, Deputy J.D. Ellison with the Nicholas County Sheriff’s Dept.

Ok, say what?  Your officer “notarized” a criminal complaint?  Here is a sample Criminal Complaint, which is actually a form provided by the West Virginia Supreme Court, from a recent case of mine (which resulted in a large settlement and an officer being fired):

ExampleCriminalComplaint

As you can see, there is no signature block for a “notarization.”  Criminal Complaints, which are standardized forms meant to comply with state and federal constitutional requirements applicable to the process of putting a person temporarily behind bars, are signed by the “Complainant,” who is almost always a sworn law enforcement officer.

The Criminal Complaint notes that the complainant must be present in person before the Magistrate, who will authorize the arrest and subsequent incarceration, assuming the Magistrate believes probable cause exists based on the sworn written testimony/explanation offered by the Complainant/Police Officer.

In my 12 years of experience practicing law around the State of West Virginia, I have never heard of a police officer “notarizing” the Criminal Complaint of another police officer.  And being a civil rights lawyer, I have examined probably thousands of Criminal Complaints.  It would be understandable for one officer to draft and sign the complaint where there were multiple officers involved.  They don’t all have to sign their name to the complaint.  But I’ve never heard of another officer, from an entirely different agency, who wasn’t even present at the incident/arrest, to apply under oath for the signature of the Magistrate, which is effectively an arrest warrant.  That would be hearsay, and would not establish probable cause.  No competent Magistrate would sign such a Criminal Complaint.  The only exception would be, if the Magistrate did not know because that fact was concealed.

I’m not posting Mr. Jones’ Criminal Complaint, but somebody has some explaining to do in Summersville.  I wonder how many other arrests/tickets given by the county sheriff’s department were actually signed by a city police officer in Summersville, given their reputation as a well known speed trap extortion operation?  Hmmm.  Like all the old ways in West Virginia, it all comes down to money.  Maybe when the legislature finishes cleaning up the Supreme Court mess, they can come follow this money trail in Summersville.  I’m sure he isn’t the only victim – just one innocent enough to have people stand behind him.

Are you entitled to a dismissal in West Virginia if the cop doesn’t show up?

There is a common misconception out there that, in a misdemeanor case, or in a traffic case, that if the arresting officer or the citation issuing officer does not show up, that you are entitled to a dismissal of your case.  Sometimes that can be the case, but many times it is not.

This can differ between counties in West Virginia.  Usually, in a misdemeanor case, the first court date will be a “pretrial” hearing.  The purpose of this hearing is for the defense attorney and the prosecutor to attempt to resolve the matter through a plea or some other resolution, or else to set the case for trial.  Usually there is no need for witnesses at this hearing.  However, some counties will subpoena witnesses to this hearing date regardless – including law enforcement witnesses.  But the purpose is generally not to testify, but rather to be available for the prosecutor to speak to in an attempt to gain their consent, or other information, which would be helpful to resolving the case by plea agreement.  Some counties do not subpoena witnesses to this hearing and do not expect them to show up.  Other counties do not subpoena witnesses to this hearing, but send them a letter advising them of their right to show up – or of their preference that they show up.

Many counties used to always subpoena law enforcement officers to these hearings.  Many still do.  Many used to dismiss the charges if the officer who was subpoenaed failed to show up.  Some still do – and usually only if the prosecutor wants to teach the officer a lesson.  But in the majority of cases, a defendant will not be entitled to a dismissal on these grounds.  Now the actual trial date is a different story.  If you are set for trial and the officer doesn’t show up, you may get a dismissal from the magistrate, or the State may request a continuance, depending on the reason the officer did not show up.  Or, the State may attempt to proceed to trial without the officer’s testimony (if there is other admissible evidence).

In short, there are less ways than you would think, to get out of a misdemeanor criminal charge on a legal loophole or technicality.  Sometimes you can, but most often it is through the hard work and persuasiveness of a good West Virginia criminal defense lawyer.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.