Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins on Tuesday adamantly denied all allegations contained in a federal civil lawsuit filed last week that accuses him of sexual assault and battery, among other charges.
In a written statement issued to media outlets, Hawkins dismissed the 15-count complaint, filed in U.S. District Court by Brittany Mae Keene, 19, of Moatsville, as a ploy to obtain money.
Hawkins and the Barbour County Commission are named as co-defendants in the suit, which alleges Hawkins sexually assaulted Keene and five other females, who are referred to as Females Nos. 1 through 5.
In May 2012, Keene also filed a domestic violence protection order petition against Hawkins, and at the time, alleged the sheriff had sexually assaulted her in July 2011 in a county-owned trailer at the Barbour County Fairgrounds.
In his statement Tuesday - which is being reprinted below exactly as provided with no edits for grammar or Associated Press style - Hawkins claims Keene's allegations were false in 2012 and are false today.
The Inter-Mountain first learned of Keene's lawsuit just before 4 p.m. Monday, when a Harris Law Office press release on the case was sent to a reporter. The paper subsequently obtained a copy of the original complaint from the Elkins office of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.
Voicemail messages left for Barbour County Commissioners Timothy McDaniel, Jedd Schola and Phil Hart on both Monday and Tuesday were not returned as of presstime Tuesday; however, the commission's attorney, Keith Gamble of the Morgantown law firm Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe LLC, spoke with The Inter-Mountain about the civil suit via telephone Tuesday.
"The allegations are obviously very serious and significant," Gamble said, "but allegations are just that, they're allegations, and before you can do too much with them, they have to be verified and examined for truthfulness and that's something we do in the litigation process."
Gamble noted that the case was still in the "early stages."
When asked about the complaint's charge that the commission "knew or should have known, of the proclivity and tendency for violence and excessive force of Hawkins in performing his law enforcement duties," Gamble responded, "He's an elected official. ... The people of Barbour County elected the sheriff, not the county commission.
"As to what we knew should have known, the problem is, we don't know exactly what they're claiming we knew or should have known other than them making those generalized statements," Gamble said. "The proclivity for someone to use excessive force could mean different things to different people. I don't want to take a position on it at this point."
"Currently, theres no indication that the allegations against us (the commission) are accurate and I don't have any reason to question that right now," the attorney added.
When asked if Hawkins is still on active-duty status as the Barbour County sheriff, Gamble said, "I have no reason to believe that he's not, but nobody has told me that he is."
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Hawkins said he's still serving as the sheriff of Barbour County. Hawkins also said he believes the same attorney who is representing the commission - Gamble - will be representing him.
"If that's who's representing them, that's who's representing me," Hawkins remarked. "We're all one."
Gamble, however, said that "as of now" he's only representing the commission in the case.
Statement by Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins
"On Monday morning, I was served with a notice that a Civil Suit had been filed in Federal Court, naming me, the Sheriff's Office and the Barbour County Commission as defendants," the sheriff's statement reads. "The allegations in the Civil Suit are the same allegations that were lodged against me in another civil matter during the election in 2012.
"First and foremost, I deny the allegations in the complaint. Unfortunately, in today's society issues like these are tried more in the 'Court of Public Opinion,' than in our Judicial System where they belong. By Monday afternoon, someone had tipped every news agency in the area of the lawsuit. Fortunately, one reporter gave me a courtesy call to allow me to comment and also inform my family of the issue before it went public.
"Over the next few months, this lawsuit will proceed. Both sides have attorneys who will exchange information and negotiate. The outcome, the Plaintiff seeks money for damages caused by her allegations. Either they will get money or they won't. That will be up to a jury to decide. The jury will be picked from the same citizens who will have been blitzed by the media coverage of this.
"Therefore, my comments in the media will be brief. As I posted yesterday to my friends on a Social Media, which was copied to the front page of a newspaper, I am sorry my family and friends have to go through this yet again. No one knows until they live through this the toll it takes on spouses, children and other relatives. A simple task of going to the grocery store can become unbearable. And all of it over false allegations to try and get money.
"As for me and my office, I am surrounded by a competent and caring staff. The Sheriff's Office in Barbour County will continue to operate on a daily basis. We will handle business to the best of our ability and respond to your needs as quickly and efficiently as we can. Some tasks, such as Estates, Grants and other duties may be put on a back burner while I prepare a defense to these allegations, as our staff is limited.
"I appreciate all the support you have shown me and my family by the calls, messages and prayers sent our way so far. It is sad it takes a tragic event such as this to appreciate the friends and support you have.
"When I chose to run for public office it was to serve the citizens in the County I loved. I was born and raised here and this is where I wanted to raise my family. In the next few months I will have to re-evaluate that decision and make the decision that best serves my family. In the mean time, I am still in office and still serving the county."
The statement is signed "Respectfully, John W. Hawkins."
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.