An Elkins man is suing Taylor County police in federal court for alleged assault, battery and violating his constitutional rights.
Anthony Silvester, 33, recently filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia alleging Grafton City Police Sgt. James Davis and Taylor County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Haddix "physically accosted" him and "otherwise used excessive force" during an encounter on Aug. 27, 2010, in Taylor County.
The Aug. 24 complaint - authored by Silvester's attorney, David Kirkpatrick of Kirkpatrick Law Office in Beckley - also names the city of Grafton and the Taylor County Sheriff's Department as defendants, arguing that those entities are responsible for the conduct of their employees.
Silvester is currently incarcerated and participating in the work-release program at Beckley Correctional Center, having been convicted in 2011 of two counts of uttering and one count of fleeing in a vehicle from a law enforcement officer, according to Taylor County Circuit Court Records.
Silvester's complaint says that during the August 2010 encounter, Haddix and Davis inflicted serious bodily injury on Silvester, which resulted in "severe physical, emotional and psychological injuries."
"As a result of the defendants' actions," the complaint states, "the Plaintiff now has an unusual fear of law enforcement personnel and anxiety about being out in public in general and more specifically in Taylor County."
The complaint goes on to say that Haddix and Davis "jointly and severally committed unlawful assault and battery" on Silvester without Silvester's consent "with malicious intent to harm and maim" him.
However, the complaint doesn't provide any details about how the incident transpired or what form the assault and battery took. Kirkpatrick did not return messages left at his office seeking further comment Monday and Tuesday.
The complaint also claims that the officers' actions violated Silvester's Eighth Amendment rights, which guarantee freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. It says Haddix and Davis also violated his 14th Amendment right, which prohibits local and state governments from depriving citizens of life, liberty or property without certain steps being taken to ensure fairness.
Kirkpatrick additionally alleges that Haddix and Davis gave hospital personnel false information about how Silvester sustained injuries associated with the incident. The lawyer asks that his client be compensated for past and future medical expenses; permanent impairment; pain and suffering; annoyance and inconvenience; emotional distress; embarrassment and humiliation; and punitive damages.
Contacted by The Inter-Mountain, Grafton City Police Chief Robert W. Beltner said that neither he nor Davis wanted to comment on the filing.
"The (Taylor County) Circuit Court has the facts," Beltner said Tuesday. Grafton City Manager Kevin Stead said he was "vaguely aware" of the case, but hadn't been served with it yet. He also referred The Inter-Mountain to records in the Taylor County Circuit Clerk's Office.
Taylor County Circuit Court records indicate that Silvester accepted a plea agreement in February 2011 stemming from the incident on Aug. 27, 2010. Silvester pleaded guilty to fleeing in a vehicle from a law enforcement officer and two counts of uttering. In exchange, the prosecution dismissed other charges lodged against Silvester, including malicious assault on a police officer; attempting to obtain a controlled substance by misrepresentation or fraud; and fleeing in a vehicle from law enforcement officer while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
According to the grand jury indictment, Silvester committed the offense of uttering when he forged the name of Dr. Jill A. Boyce on United Hospital Center Family Medical Center physician prescription forms in an attempt to obtain controlled substances at a RiteAid in Taylor County.
The criminal complaint in the Taylor County Magistrate Clerk's Office alleges that Silvester led Davis, Haddix and another officer on a high-speed chase that began at the RiteAid and culminated when Silvester refused to exit his vehicle and continued to drive, dragging Davis approximately 15 feet before nearly running over him. When the officers eventually stopped Silvester by forcing his car into a ditch, Haddix and another officer "took the combative suspect to the ground where a struggle ensued" until Davis arrived on scene, the complaint states.
In a March 10, 2011, sentencing order obtained by The Inter-Mountain, Taylor County Circuit Court Judge Alan Moats observed that Silvester fled from police on Route 50 at a speed of over 100 mph and "put the lives of the public and the police officers at risk."
When contacted for comment, Taylor County Sheriff Robert H. Beltner (father of Grafton City Police Chief Robert W. Beltner) said Silvester put police in grave danger on Aug. 27, 2010.
"All I can say is it's lucky that an officer wasn't killed that day," he said. "Sgt. (James) Davis was drug by a car Silvester was driving, and he could have been run over and killed by that subject. [Davis] had to fire a shot at the tire to get him to stop."
"This guy meant to get away no matter what the cost," the sheriff said.
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.