This video was submitted by Jordan, who was pulled over in Charleston, West Virginia while delivering food via an online app. He was pulled over for a broken tag-light. Officers then asked him to exit the vehicle. He was frisked and then made to watch, while officers searched his vehicle because they claimed to smell marijuana. Can cops order you out of your vehicle at a traffic stop for any reason? Can they frisk you and search your pockets for any reason once they order you out of the vehicle? Can they search your vehicle just because they claim to smell marijuana?
“[A] police officer may as a matter of course order the driver of a lawfully stopped car to exit his vehicle.” Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 410, 117 S.Ct. 882, 137 L.Ed.2d 41 (1997) (citing Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 98 S.Ct. 330, 54 L.Ed.2d 331 (1977) (per curiam)). That rule, the justification for which is officer safety, extends to passengers, as well. Wilson, 519 U.S. at 414–15, 117 S.Ct. 882. (United States v. Vaughan, 700 F.3d 705 (4th Cir. 2012)).
The Fourth Amendment prohibits police officers from prolonging a traffic stop beyond the time necessary to investigate (and write a ticket for) a traffic violation unless the officers have reasonable suspicion that the stopped vehicle’s occupants are engaging in other crimes. Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. 348, 354-56 (2015).
The odor of marijuana alone, as of the current state of the law, provides probable cause for officers to search a vehicle for evidence of marijuana possession – despite state laws legalizing the possession of marijuana under some circumstances. As the Fourth Circuit noted in United States v. Mitchell (4th Cir. 2018), “[t]his is especially the case so long as marijuana possession is prohibited by federal law, without exception. 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1).”
In November of 2021, I posted a video showing a West Virginia judge flipping out at a traffic stop in Moorefield, West Virginia. In response to a stop he admitted was justified, but yet he nevertheless pulled rank on a young police officer, immediately identifying himself as a judge, getting his supervisor on the phone, and later trying to get him fired, including threatening judicial retaliation against that department. I got the footage first through a public records request and showed it to you. Then you responded. The wheels of justice have turned. There were charges, a trial, and now an ending….
On February 10, 2023, Corey Lambert was driving down the road and he gave the middle finger to a police officer who was driving by. That police officer then, in response to the middle finger, initiated a traffic stop. This occurred in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The officer was Coby Engle from the Martinsburg Police Department.
Here’s what he wrote in his report:
I witnessed a white male driver later identified as Corey Lambert, driving a Chevy pickup truck traveling east bound on Mall Drive. When I passed Corey I witnessed him giving an improper hand signal prior to turning left onto Mall Access Road. I then turned around and initiated my emergency lights and sirens and conducted a traffic stop in the parking lot of Grand Home Furnishings on Mall Loop.
When I approached Corey I advised to him the reason for the stop. Corey later stated that he was not indicating his direction [of] travel in his vehicle with his hand signaling and that he was simply giving me the middle finger.
Due to this being a municipal violation of hand and arm signals 339.10 I then asked Corey multiple times for his driver license registration and proof of insurance. He told me multiple times that the didn’t have to provide me with these documents.
At this time Pfc. Boursiquot told Corey again that if he didn’t provide us with these documents that he would be placed under arrest. Corey continued to not comply with our demands. Corey was then placed under arrest at this time and transported back to the Martinsburg City Police Station for processing.
Believe it or not, Corey was then held on a cash only bond for four days and three nights, following his arrest. He was charged with municipal violations of improper hand signal and two counts of obstruction. Then, because the charges were municipal, instead of a real court and real judge, it went to the municipal court, which so they told us on the phone, claims not to be a “court of record,” and as such apparently keep no paperwork. But they told us that the result was that the improper signaling charge was dismissed. One count of obstruction was dismissed. And he was convicted of one count of obstruction.
The protections of the First Amendment are not limited to spoken words, but rather include gestures and other expressive conduct, even if vulgar or offensive to some. For example, in Cohen v. California (1971), the Supreme Court held that an individual wearing a jacket bearing the words “F**k the Draft” in a courthouse corridor could not be prosecuted for disturbing the peace.
Consistent with this precedent, although “the gesture generally known as ‘giving the finger’ … is widely regarded as an offensive insult,” Bad Frog Brewery, Inc. v. N.Y. State Liquor Auth. , (2d Cir. 1998), it is a gesture that is generally protected by the First Amendment. See, e.g. , Cruise-Gulyas v. Minard (6th Cir. 2019) (“Any reasonable [police] officer would know that a citizen who raises her middle finger engages in speech protected by the First Amendment.”); Garcia v. City of New Hope (8th Cir. 2021) (“[Plaintiff’s] raising his middle finger at [a police officer] is a rude and offensive gesture but nonetheless, under current precedent, is a constitutionally protected speech activity.”); Batyukova v. Doege(5th Cir. 2021) (same); accord Swartz v. Insogna (2d Cir. 2013) (holding that giving the middle finger could not support arrest for disorderly conduct); see generally Ira P. Robbins, Digitus Impudicus: The Middle Finger and the Law , 41 U.C. DAVIS L. REV. 1403, 1407–08, 1434 (2008) (observing that the middle finger can express a variety of emotions—such as anger, frustration, defiance, protest, excitement—or even “possess[ ] political or artistic value”).
And there’s still more. The most outrageous of the allegations I disclosed in my first video pertained to a state trooper putting a hidden camera in the women’s locker room of the WV State Police Academy, as well as the ensuing destruction of the evidence and coverup. One of the things argued back and forth on the radio between the former head of the state police and the Governor’s office is the claim that there were no victims wanting to press charges. Well that’s not the case, apparently. According to media reports, multiple women who regularly used the female locker room at the West Virginia State Police Academy have filed a notice of intent to sue over allegations a hidden camera was used there. It looks like multiple lawsuits are looming.
Yes this is a huge scandal. Sadly, however, this wouldn’t be the first time for the West Virginia State Police. Have you ever heard of Fred Zain? In 1977, Zain was hired as a chemist at the West Virginia State Police crime laboratory, with the rank of trooper. He was eventually promoted to director of the serology department.
It was later discovered that Zain had gained his job in the serology department by using false credentials. Nobody checked his background. He soon became popular with prosecutors in West Virginia for being able to solve extremely difficult cases. His reputation was such that prosecutors throughout the country wanted to use him as an expert witness.
In 1987, an innocent man named Glen Woodall was convicted of a series of crimes and was sentenced to 335 years in prison. The next year, in 1988, DNA testing was used for the first time in a state prosecution, which proved conclusively that Woodall was innocent. The conviction was reversed. Woodall was released and sued the state for false imprisonment, winning a 1 million dollar settlement.
A criminal investigation into Zain began. A special judge and a panel of lawyers and scientists were appointed to investigate the West Virginia State Police’s serology department. Ultimately, a judge issued a report finding that Zain had engaged in outright misconduct and fraud over a long period of time. According to the report, Zain had misstated evidence, falsified lab results and reported scientifically implausible results that may have resulted in as many as 134 people being wrongfully convicted.
The judge’s report concluded that Zain’s misconduct was so egregious that any testimony offered by Zain should be presumed to be invalid, unreliable and inadmissible. The West Virginia Supreme Court accepted this report, calling Zain’s actions “egregious violations of the right of a defendant to a fair trial” and a “corruption of our legal system.”
After leaving West Virginia, Zain then went to Bexar County, Texas, where his fraud and misconduct may have resulted in as many as 180 wrongful convictions there. Reviews of the cases he was involved with resulted in charges being dismissed and convictions reversed for numerous cases in both West Virginia and Texas. West Virginia alone paid a combined total of $6.5 million to settle wrongful convictions lawsuits.
So, to recap the current scandal: an anonymous whistleblower letter was sent to numerous politicians making serious allegations with sufficient specificity as to give the instant credibility. A local investigative reporter began looking into it and reporting on it. Someone provided me with a copy of that letter. I released the letter and described the substance of the allegations in my first video about this.
Then, all hell broke loose. My first video alleged that the head of the state police had been terminated. That wasn’t true. At least not yet. Then, the state trooper suspected of being the whistleblower gets arrested, the day before he’s scheduled to testify at a grievance hearing where top brass was subpoenaed to be questioned under oath by the whistleblower’s attorney about allegations of corruption and misconduct.
The alleged whistleblower’s attorney then goes on the TV news and calls the arrest retaliation for his client being the alleged whistleblower who wrote the letter that I released. The whistleblower must have friends in high places, because state officials from the Department of Homeland Security then ran with those allegations and searched the state police headquarters, seizing the devices of the top brass at the state police, including the superintendent.
But there’s still more. The Governor has asked the new Interim State Police Superintendent Jack Chambers to look into a case where a man died along Interstate 81 in Berkeley County, West Virginia on February 12 of this year. The theme here is the complete lack of accountability from within. Coverups instead of actual investigation of police misconduct.
Here’s what is alleged to have happened there. A caller reported a man walking along the side of the road appeared to be intoxicated. When officers arrived, the release from State Police claims there was some sort of struggle that resulted in the man becoming unresponsive and officers were unable to resuscitate him.
Brian Abraham, the governor’s chief of staff, said tasers were used multiple times on the man. “It ended up culminating in that individual being subjected to a taser on multiple occasions and ultimately had cardiac arrest or something, but he was unable to be resuscitated on scene.” The body cam footage of this event exists, but has not yet been released. Here’s what the Governor said about it: “I’ve seen the video. The video is very, very concerning.”
There’s so much going on. Let’s go back to the casino incident. One of the allegations to come out in the investigation of the state police leadership is that a senior trooper stole money from a guy in a casino. Then, the Governor’s chief of staff demanded that the head of the state police terminate the guy. Instead, he let him retire first.
The investigative reporter, Kennie Bass, issued a FOIA request and obtained the video footage and report detailing what happened. According to his reporting, at about 11:20 a.m. May 29, 2021, a male patron said he had lost an envelope containing $500. This triggered a review of security cameras. This showed a man in a hat, dark shirt and blue jeans had picked up the envelope.
A further investigation of the video sequence revealed the man and his female companion, identified as his wife, had already left the property. The man was identified as a West Virginia State Police captain. Investigating the matter, a West Virginia Police sergeant contacted the captain and was able to quickly recover the envelope, which was stuffed with $731 in cash. The sergeant contacted the casino about the recovery and had the money back at the gaming facility by 2:22 p.m. A West Virginia State Police receipt recorded the handover of the cash and the money was placed in a safe. On the next day, May 30, 2021, the customer who had reported the missing money was back in the casino by 11 a.m. to claim his property.
The Governor gave a press conference about it and slammed the state police leadership for covering the incident up. “Basically, any way you cut it that money was stolen,” Gov. Jim Justice said at a briefing earlier this week. “And then as far as us doing a quick investigation and getting right on to what we should get onto, we didn’t do that.”
The Governor’s chief of staff strongly suggested to the head of the state police that the two troopers involved in the theft and coverup be thrown under the bus immediately. “My advice was by the time the sun goes down today, those two individuals would not be state troopers anymore,” Brian Abraham, the governor’s chief of staff, said. “I then left the decision-making to him (Jan Cahill – the superintendent) as the agency head.”
Colonel Cahill, who resigned Monday morning as State Police superintendent, ignored Abraham’s advice and allowed the captain to retire with 29 years of service. There was no investigation. The sergeant who recovered the money was cleared by an internal agency investigation under Cahill’s watch. A new probe, however, is focusing on the sergeant’s failure to report the incident up the chain of command.
Then there’s, of all things, the scandal of the hidden camera being placed in the women’s locker room of the West Virginia State Police Academy. The trooper who put the camera in the bathroom supposedly said he was doing so in order to catch some state police employees having an affair. But apparently he recorded a bunch of footage, presumably for his own use. That guy is now dead. So he’s not being brought to justice. But then, three troopers find this footage on a thumb drive, showing the footage from the locker room. What do they do with it? They pull it out of the computer, throw it on the floor and start stomping on it – destroying the evidence.
The now former head of the state police said essentially that it wasn’t a big deal because there were no victims who wanted anything done about it. Well apparently that’s not true. It’s just been reported that multiple victims who were recorded have now hired lawyers and put the state on notice that they intend to sue. So multiple female employees of the West Virginia State Police were recorded by a state trooper, and then the evidence was destroyed by other state troopers. Leadership was aware of all of this, and yet did nothing but engage in a coverup.
Imagine if the Fred Zain mess had just been covered up, instead of being exposed? How many innocent people would still be rotting away in prison, but for the exposure of his misconduct? That’s what’s currently at stake. It’s not just about what we know about already; it’s about what else do we NOT know about? It’s about the integrity of past convictions; the integrity of pending criminal cases; pending civil lawsuits.
I have conversations with people every day where I say essentially, yes I believe you. I do believe you. But I have to be able to prove it. Do you have any video footage? Any audio footage? Unfortunately, I can’t just take your word and run with it. Just by default, the powers-that-be and people in general will take a police officer’s word over yours. We, as a society, have gifted that credibility to them, just by virtue of placing a badge on them. If they’re not worthy; if they’re not credible, they need to go. As quickly as possible. And an example must be made for the others. That is what has not been happening in the West Virginia State Police.
The major point here that the former head of the state police completely missed, is that accountability is everything. You don’t just throw one or two people under a bus when it’s politically expedient to do so. You consistently maintain a high standard of integrity and professionalism. If you don’t do that, the entire system collapses. Then what happens? The feds have to come in like it’s 1866 and start putting people from Washington DC in charge of local law enforcement. That’s where we’re headed I believe, if this isn’t resolved properly.
But also remember: you can’t trust the government in general. We don’t want them cleaning up the mess just for optics, and then continuing on after a certain quota of top brass have been thrown into the volcano. We need complete accountability and a plan for moving forward. Perhaps like the Zain ordeal, there should be a committee of people, including a judge, to sort through this. I’ll continue watching this as it develops and will no doubt provide future updates. So please subscribe if you want to follow along. If you have information, please provide it to me using the submission link.
February 13, 2023, Jacob Jackson is walking down a public sidewalk in Beckley, West Virginia. A uniformed sheriff’s deputy pulls up in a marked police cruiser and activates his emergency lights. The reason? He has civil service papers to serve related to an eviction proceeding. Jacob asserts his rights. The deputy asserts what he believes to be his rights as a police officer. Can a police officer forcibly detain you, ID you, search you, put his hands on you, just because he has civil paperwork to serve on someone? Even if you’ve done nothing illegal?
Jacob brought me his cell phone video. I then obtained the body cam footage via a FOIA request from the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department.
When police officers encounter pedestrians, they could trigger an investigatory detention, which requires reasonable suspicion, or they could just be engaged in a consensual encounter, which requires nothing. It’s just a conversation.
Consensual encounters, i.e., a conversation, does not trigger the Fourth Amendment, and can be easily identified if the subject asks whether or not he’s free to leave. If the question isn’t asked, courts will look to the circumstances. Would a reasonable, regular person believe that he was NOT free to leave? Were emergency lights activated? Multiple police officers? Guns drawn? Put in handcuffs? Accused of criminal conduct? Told to show your hands? Told to get on the ground? Or was it just a conversation.
The question is whether a reasonable person would feel free to terminate the encounter. If the person was involuntarily detained by the officer, that constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, no matter how brief the detention or how limited its purpose.
If a detention occurs, the courts require the detaining officer to be able to articulate why a particular behavior is suspicious or logically demonstrate that the person’s behavior is indicative of some sinister criminal activity. It must be based on suspicion of illegal conduct. In other words, it cannot be based on suspicion of legal conduct, such as walking down a public sidewalk, or even being a defendant in a civil lawsuit – even an eviction proceeding. Anyone can serve lawsuit paperwork: a private investigator, a rando off the street – anyone. Just doing that does not entitle any individual to detain or arrest the target of the civil service.
This video demonstrated that Jacob Jackson was not suspected of having committed any crime. The officer had no right to involuntarily detain him. He had no right to do anything but engage in a consensual encounter with Mr. Jackson. Due to the fact that Mr. Jackson asserted his rights, there’s no doubt that the officer detained him and thereby triggered the Fourth Amendment. Given the fact that there was no allegation or suspicion of illegal conduct, reasonable suspicion did not exist, and therefore the Fourth Amendment was violated – no matter how brief the detention was, and no matter how badly the officer, or some litigant, wanted Mr. Jackson to be served with the paperwork.
On March 10, the West Virginia State Police Special Response Team executed a search warrant in McDowell County, West Virginia and shot 21 year old Darius Lester multiple times. Yesterday I went and met Darius and his family and examined the scene of the shooting. The truth is far from what the state police gave to the news media. Let me tell you what really appears to have happened. By the way, this is the same state police currently all over the news for being exposed as completely untrustworthy, as I just detailed in a recent video.
Here’s what was given to the news media:
One man was injured Friday during an officer involved shooting while troopers with the West Virginia State Police were serving a search warrant.
At about 5:45 a.m., members of the West Virginia State Police SRT acting in cooperation with the FBI served a search warrant at the residence of Jeremy Lester….
Upon entry, members were confronted by Darius Lester, 22 of Big Sandy, who was armed and attempted to attack the members with a hammer. Members engaged the suspect and shots were fired stopping the threat, Maddy said.
First aid was administered on scene until EMS arrived. Darius Lester was transported to Raleigh General Hospital for his injuries.
Here’s what really happened:
Darius had been asleep on the couch in the home’s living room, where he liked to sleep. Darius was unarmed at the time he was shot and was still on his bed, as indicated by the pool of blood on and underneath the couch where he was sleeping. Darius has no criminal record. He was not under arrest. He was not suspected of having committed any crime. He was merely sleeping on the couch in a house where police were executing a search warrant unrelated to him. Darius works as a coal truck driver. He works the night shift. He had just gotten off work at around 4 a.m. He then went to sleep shortly after getting home. Sometime after 5 a.m. the state police SWAT team showed up. Everyone was asleep, including Darius.
I’ve already examined the actual search warrant that formed the basis of the raid. It did not provide for a no knock entry. It also contained no allegations that anyone inside the home was armed or dangerous. In fact, from my understanding, nobody who lived in the home even had a criminal record at all.
Law enforcement was there to execute a search warrant based on the illegal possession of explicit photographs allegedly downloaded by Darius’ uncle. There were no allegations alleged in the warrant application that executing this particular search warrant posed any threat of danger to law enforcement. So why call out the state police’s SWAT team, the SRT? The allegations against the uncle solely pertained to downloading illegal photographs. There was nothing about violence or physical danger to police officers executing a search warrant. It’s my understanding that the uncle had no prior criminal history. Nor were there any allegations at all against Darius.
The press release said that “upon entry” they encountered Darius, who had a hammer. Well, the photographs I took yesterday show where Darius was when they encountered him: asleep on the couch in the living room, which is quite a ways from where they made entry. They would have made entry and rounded the corner into the living room before encountering him and waking him up, flashlights in his eyes, probably startled and confused.
The photographs of the blood stains show where the violence occurred – right on the bed/couch where Darius had been sleeping.
Why would Darius attack a SWAT team with a hammer? That’s absurd. He wasn’t under arrest. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Perhaps it’s more likely that once they realized they shot an unarmed man, who wasn’t even the target of their investigation, they grabbed a nearby hammer and came up with a cover story for why they shot him. Why would a SWAT team in full body armor be in fear for their lives of a guy, with no criminal record or charges, allegedly holding a hammer – especially one in his own bed. Are they that afraid? I mean, really? A hammer?
I’ve dealt with the West Virginia State Police SRT team before. I had a case in federal court in the Northern District of West Virginia – up in Doddridge County, where the state police SRT busted in on an elderly guy, who likewise had done nothing wrong (they were looking for a third party fugitive who used to work for him) and they literally scared the guy to death.
They put him in handcuffs and made him stand in his kitchen. The old man, in poor health, began having trouble breathing and asked to be released from his handcuffs. The tough guy state trooper, wearing full body armor and holding a machine gun (literally a machine gun, as it was full auto) refused, because as he explained to me when I deposed him, there were officer safety concerns, because they were in a kitchen. And there were sharp knives around. I’m not even joking. The man died and they just put him no the floor and began to take crime scene photos.
That was the case where part of the settlement was that the West Virginia State Police agreed to retrain their entire agency about the constitutional requirement to knock and announce prior to busting in someone’s house on a search warrant execution.
This seems awfully similar. I mean, what’s the point of having a SWAT team if you don’t get to use it from time to time, am I right? In my prior case there were, I believe, 17 different SWAT guys at the scene. I wonder how many they had here, that were so afraid of an innocent guy with a hammer? Even if he did have a hammer, perhaps if you didn’t bust in in the darkness and startle the guy out of a deep sleep, he wouldn’t have grabbed a hammer. Though I highly doubt he ever did. The evidence at the scene points to the gunshots occurring while Darius was still on his bed.
What really happened? Could it have been an accident? A mistake? Maybe they thought he was the uncle and nobody would care, given the allegations against him? One thing’s for sure. If there had been body cam, we wouldn’t have to speculate.
There’s no doubt that the case law would justify the police shooting someone coming at them with a hammer. There have been numerous similar cases with those allegations. The question is, did that even happen?
As discussed in some of the recent state police scandal videos, one of the allegations against the top brass of the state police is that they make the lower tier guys wear and use body cams, while the important people don’t have to. All the street level state troopers now have and use body cams. Why would the state police’s SWAT team not be given body cams? That would make it really easy. Does the footage show a guy running at them with a hammer and refusing to drop it? Or does it not? If the situation is so important and dangerous that they need to use the SWAT team, why does it not justify the use of body cams?
I’ll go ahead and speculate that they chose not to use them just in case they end up shooting someone like this. Then they can just grab a nearby object and say the guy was holding it, and refused to drop it. The South Park “he’s coming right at us” defense. Then, when it gets to court, they’re wearing their uniforms and fancy hats and they hope that the jurors will take their word over the victim’s word. That should be unnecessary. It should have been caught on video. Maybe it was, but the preliminary information suggests that there is no body cam footage.
This is yet another example of a completely unnecessary shooting of an innocent unarmed citizen by our government. For those of you with the thin blue line stickers and all the pro-Constitution stickers at the same time, this is your government. This is who is going to come to your house and confiscate your guns when the time comes. This is how they will treat you as well. NRA sticker on your truck? You better believe they’ll show up to your house at 5 am also, at a time when they think you’ll be asleep. They’ll be trigger happy too, since they’ll have been briefed on how much of a gun nut you are. This is where we are in this country. This is the road we’re headed down.
Then, after your government shoots you, what do they do next? Well, if you survive, guess what? They charge you with a crime to cover their exposure to a civil lawsuit. That’s exactly what they have done to Darius here. They’ve charged him with a felony, for allegedly attempting to harm this poor vulnerable SWAT team with a ball peen hammer. And he was so successful at it that no officers were even injured. To the contrary, the perpetrated was shot multiple times, including two rounds to the chest.
Why do they do this? Because any subsequent civil rights lawsuit is going to be bound by any factual findings contained in the underlying criminal case. So if they convict Darius of attempting to hit a police officer with a hammer, that fact will have to be taken as true by the federal court in the subsequent civil lawsuit.
Also, don’t worry, the West Virginia State Police is investigating themselves. This is the same agency that is currently all over the news for literally refusing to properly investigate themselves.
Again, this is a poor area of West Virginia that has for years been neglected by politicians. Corruption has been rampant in this area for years. That’s why it’s important to bring attention to what’s happening and watch very carefully.
The biggest police scandal in the country right now is going down in West Virginia – and almost nobody even knows about it. It hasn’t made national news yet. One reporter in West Virginia exposed it and things have escalated. This is another one of those cases where this Youtube channel has inadvertently helped to expose government misconduct. This goes to show what an absolute necessity free speech is to our freedom.
A couple weeks ago I released an anonymous whistleblower letter from a state trooper, making specific allegations against the top leadership. I had no idea this would happen, but apparently that kicked off what is essentially a civil war inside the West Virginia State Police that seems to have been brewing. Since my first video on this with the whistleblower’s allegations, that whistleblower has been arrested. His lawyer is alleging a coverup conspiracy going all the way to the top of the state police.
Now, more breaking news, as of last night it was revealed that the Governor has ordered the seizure of the cell phones and electronic data of almost all the top leadership at the state police. Crazy, crazy stuff. This is big. People should know about this, because the implications are enormous.
On February 17, I posted a video with breaking news about the scandal at the West Virginia State Police, publishing for the first time the salacious details being alleged. I’ll link that video in the description, as well as the link to the letter itself.
Here’s my original video:
The initial version of that video title included the allegation that the head of the state police had been terminated. Within hours of the posting of that video, I was contacted by his attorney and told that he had in fact not been terminated, demanding a correction, which I did. It apparently started to snowball from there. I started getting all sorts of contacts from current and retired law enforcement officers with messages of support, as well as additional information.
Then I started getting additional anonymous letters. I didn’t publish any of those and I don’t intend to at this point. Instead, not really wanting to be within the middle of a law enforcement civil war, I provided those letters to the appropriate authorities. Maybe the time will come that that will happen. One of those letters, however, made reverse accusations against the trooper later disclosed to be the alleged whistleblower, Joey Comer. That was the first time I heard his name; never talked to the guy. He’s not the one who gave me the letter.
But I did start to hear through my contacts that the whistleblower, or whistleblowers – because it seemed to me that it was more than one individual, from the amount of information provided – were worried that retaliation was coming.
Then, sure enough, on February 24, 2023, the leadership at the WVSP issued a press release announcing that the alleged whistleblower, Joseph Comer, a current member of the West Virginia State Police, was arrested and charged with domestic battery and felony strangulation.
Okay, wow. So they arrested the whistleblower. But there’s more….
Then, on the same day, February 24, 2023 the attorney for the alleged whistleblower gives an interview to the media alleging that the arrest was in retaliation because he was the suspected whistleblower. Before we get to the allegations against Comer, let’s look at the timing. He was arrested the day before he was scheduled to testify at a hearing in front of an administrative law judge about “corruption that was going on” within the state police. Comer’s lawyer said that the “top brass” of the state police had been subpoenaed to testify at that hearing, where they had intended to expose their misconduct through evidence in their possession.
So this hearing is set to take place Friday morning. Thursday afternoon at 4:12 p.m., an attorney for the state police filed a motion seeking to prevent the agency’s top staff from having to testify and be subjected to questioning. Then at 11 p.m. Thursday night, the whistleblower received a call from other state troopers telling him they were coming to his home to pick up his gun and his badge because there had been a domestic violence protection order filed against him.
Comer’s lawyer said that the head of the state police had traveled to the vicinity where his client worked as a trooper and told several people that he knew who the whistleblower was, and that he had a hearing on Friday morning, and that he was going to “take care of him.”
The underlying allegations that they arrested the alleged whistleblower on were domestic violence in nature. According to a criminal complaint filed in Ritchie County Magistrate Court, on Dec. 5, in the gravel parking lot of the Sleep Inn in Ellenboro, Comer grabbed a woman around her neck during a scheduled child custody exchange. The woman reported that she had bruises on both sides of her neck. The alleged incident resulted in the strangulation charge, a felony. The second criminal complaint alleges that on Dec. 12, 2022, in the gravel parking lot of the Sleep Inn in Ellenboro, a woman said she was struck in the head with a sippy cup that Comer threw at her during a scheduled child custody exchange. The woman told troopers that the incident left her with a black eye, according to the court documents. The records do not indicate if the woman who reported both alleged incidents is the same person, but sources say the alleged victim, who is also a trooper, shares a child with Comer. One of the anonymous letters I received said something to this effect.
One of the important constitutional issues that the Institute for Justice is currently litigating is the ability to sue the government when they file criminal charges against someone in retaliation for their protected speech. There’s some bad law out there saying that, if probable cause exists, no matter the bad motive, you can’t sue them for First Amendment retaliation. Even if it was.
Here, there’s a similar concern. Certainly the state police didn’t create the allegations whole-cloth. But let’s look at the dates. One of the incidents is alleged to have occurred on December 5; the other on December 12. Yet they didn’t charge him until February 24 – the day before the hearing at which he was set to expose corruption among the state police leadership. Moreover, the alleged victim of those incidents is herself a state trooper. I would agree with Comer’s lawyer, that just doesn’t even pass the laugh test.
I was told that more was coming out. Well, last night it did. Last night a third media report came out and it’s a bombshell. I had been hearing that this was occurring, but now it’s verified. Last week, the main headquarters of the West Virginia State Police was searched by the Department of Homeland Security. That’s the state-level DHS. This was done at the order of the Governor. Here’s the actual order from the Governor, ordering:
Cahill, the head of the state police, was directed by the Governor to grant any and all necessary access to systems or data that was requested.
The media outlet obtained one of those duty logs and posted in their story on their website. They’ve since deleted the screenshot, but I saved it. It’s a duty log entry from Sgt. B.L. Keefer addressing the search and attempted apprehension of Comer when the warrant was issued for his arrest on Feb. 23.
In the duty log entry, Keefer wrote that he was called at home to contact/locate Comer and “relay him to WVSP Parkersburg, under the premise of him being served with a DVP.” Keefer wrote that he spent several hours searching for Comer and learned that “senior staff was attempting to ‘ping’ his cell phone and utilize LPRs in searching for Cpl. Comer’s whereabouts.” The log entry indicated “WVSP senior staffers” had discussed calling out additional manpower.
The sergeant wrote that he had been advised Comer had a hearing the next morning at State Police headquarters, where he could be “easily served at that time, with his legal counsel present.” “Additionally, this sergeant, still under the assumption that his search was still centered around a DVP service, believed that the orders originating at WVSP HQ were definitely overkill based on the very small bit of information he had been previously provided,” Keefer wrote. Despite all of this, Keefer said he continued searching for Comer in very desolate areas of Jackson County, near Comer’s home. Keefer said he was not able to locate Comer but learned the next morning that there were actually felony and misdemeanor warrants issued for his arrest, along with the DVP.
“This sergeant is now strongly questioning the decision by the WVSP senior staff in not informing the sole member they sent to locate Corporal Comer, and not informing this sergeant of the felony and misdemeanor warrants, that were most assuredly in effect at the time of the search,” the entry stated. “This sergeant has since learned that the WVSP senior staff has taken the position that they were afraid that Corporal Comer was a ‘threat’ that needed immediate attention, but failed to inform the very member that they ordered to ‘bring him in.'”
Keefer went on to question why, if Comer was considered a threat, he was not provided with the information as part of officer safety protocols. “If Corporal Comer had truly been a ‘threat,’ and any information had leaked to him from the ‘victim’ or any other person who had information that this sergeant most certainly was not provided, then that placed this officer at an undue risk, and that is inexcusable,” Keefer wrote. Keefer ended the entry by writing, “This sergeant is making this note on the duty log as an abridged history, and record, of this event, as the current WVSP administration efficacy and trustworthiness is called into question.”
So, it sounds like the trooper they sent to arrest the alleged whistleblower, is now himself blowing the whistle, implying that the arrest was political and corrupt and in retaliation against Comer. If this is the case, it appears that the evidence has now been seized. Are they going to find communications between the state police leadership and others about locating and arresting the alleged whistleblower either in retaliation for what he disclosed, or to prevent him from testifying at the hearing the following day? I’d love to read through those text messages and emails. How much do you want to bet there are communications about yours truly? Maybe I’ll get to find out eventually.
One thing people have already asked me: did they need warrants to seize evidence from the senior state police staff? In general, I can answer that. I once had a case where we sued a sheriff for placing a GPS tracker on a deputy’s cruiser without a warrant, and then using that data to indict him on numerous felonies. The result in that case was that the federal court said that since the agency owned the cruiser, and the investigation was technically employment related, that no warrant was needed. I suspect the present situation would fall within those same parameters and therefore no warrant is necessary.
The state Department of Homeland Security is currently investigating the matter and is expected to conclude no later than April. If you have information you want to provide, you can find my contact information at thecivilrightslawyer.com, where I will also post links to the stories I discussed in this video.
This issue is important because the major problem with policing in America, in my opinion, is the lack of accountability. Here in West Virginia, when politicians, or judges, or lawyers get investigated and are found to have engaged in misconduct, that becomes public record. The public can see the reports; the conclusions. Law enforcement? Not so much. They have been able to successfully seal their employment records under the guise of employee privacy. In reality, they are our employees, and we should know about any substantiated misconduct.
I often get the question, can public officials block me or delete my messages on social media? Isn’t that a First Amendment violation? Well, some more West Virginia news today: the Fayette County WV Sheriff’s Department has just deleted its Facebook page following negative comments they’ve received following a local incident. Here’s what the sheriff said about why he did it:
“Sorry, but I’m getting bashed and getting messages. People are just so rude and unfair….”
He said they would just delete the negative comments, but they did that once before and got sued, so the only option is to delete the page.
“We deleted comments before and got in trouble for that,” he said.
Why is the public so upset at this sheriff’s department? And what is the law on this? Can an official government social media page block you or delete your comments?
The WV ACLU has previously been involved with this issue. They actually sent a letter to the members of the WV legislature about this, attempting to warn legislators from violating First Amendment rights on social media.
So here’s the basic law. The First Amendment protects the right to criticize public officials – period. N.Y. Times v. Sullivan. But it’s not limited to newspapers. The SCOTUS has referred to social media as a “modern public square.” Packingham v. North Carolina.
When the government provides a forum for speech, such as a Facebook page, or a Youtube channel, the government actor may not exclude certain speech or actors from that forum on the basis of their viewpoints.
In 2019, the Fourth Circuit, which is applicable here in West Virginia, held that an elected official’s Facebook page on which she discussed upcoming events and community issues constituted a “public forum,” and that the official engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination when she banned a constituent from her Facebook page. That was Davison v. Randall. The Court found that the official acted under color of law when she banned the constituent because she treated the Facebook page as a “tool of governance.”
Similarly, I once sued a notorious WV state senator for an under color of law civil rights violation due to a rant about a constituent on his Facebook page. I’ll link that video if you want to watch it.
Thus, it’s now settled case law in the Fourth Circuit that a constituent’s constitutional rights extend to comments made on a public official’s social media page. An official may not block protected speech on an account dedicated to their official duties. Officials may, however, delete speech that is not considered protected under the Constitution, such as speech that makes a true and immediate threat to another person, incites others to imminently violate the law, or contains obscene language, as narrowly defined by the SCOTUS in Miller v. California.
This is not limited to social media accounts that are officially noted or categorized as an “official” page of a public official. This can also extend to a public official’s personal social media accounts, if that account is used to discuss public matters or for other public purposes. This is what happened in my WV State Senate case. The courts will look at the content, not just the title.
Here, given the fact that the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department’s Facebook page is (or rather “was”) both in title and substance, and official account, there is no question that they could not delete comments and posters based on their viewpoints. At least not unless they contained speech that is not protected, such as threats or the narrow types of obscenities, which mind you, as far as police go, as I’ve discussed in prior videos, “F the police” has been found to be protected speech.
So yes, if a law enforcement agency does not want to have their feelings hurt, or is upset by comments they’re receiving, they can delete the page. But they cannot delete viewpoints.
In the past couple of days, WCHS has been reporting about an anonymous whistleblower letter from someone within the West Virginia State Police, revealing numerous specific allegations of misconduct, mostly by senior staff at the agency. I just obtained a copy of that letter and it’s unbelievable.
In the Fall of 2020, David Craft, who then lived in Statesville, North Carolina, killed a monster buck in McDowell County, West Virginia, and also killed another trophy buck back in North Carolina, during the same season. David is a serious deer hunter. He does his homework; he puts in the time. He gets result. But others get jealous. Law enforcement ended up essentially stealing his antlers, posing with them for the media, dragging him through over a year of frivolous criminal prosecution, and then abruptly dropping the charging just prior to the jury trial, when it turned out they had no evidence.
You can read the full background in my first post about this case, here.
This week we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the two primary police officers involved. Here’s the full complaint: