Barbour sheriff uses social media site to tout innocence

Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins took to Facebook Monday night to defend himself against a slew of allegations – including sexual assault, battery and false imprisonment – that were brought against him in a civil lawsuit recently filed in federal court.

The suit’s plaintiff, Brittany Mae Keene, 19, of Barbour County, names Hawkins and the Barbour County Commission as co-defendants in a 15-count case filed in the Elkins office of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. Five females, listed only as Female No. 1-5, have allegations outlined in the court document.

Hawkins used social media to tout his innocence.

On his Facebook timeline, Hawkins posted, “Round No. 2. Thought all this was over with the election, but today I was sued in federal court. It will be on all news media tonight, I’ve been called by media to comment. I will do a written release later. I don’t mind being tried in court, as I will deny all the allegations. It’s a civil suit for money.

“I just hate my family having to go through all the mudslinging in the media again,” the post continues. “To my friends, sorry. I’d ask for prayers for my family but was bashed the last time for asking for prayers for them. So, true friends know where we live and how to get in touch with us.”

As of presstime, the post garnered more than 70 likes and a stream of 100-plus comments. The comments featured a wide array of messages of support for Hawkins as well as his family.

Former Elkins Mayor Verge Broughton and his wife, Dee, share a Facebook page. Their shared site posted the following in response to Hawkins’ comment: “Prayers!!!”

Hawkins’ wife, Cheryl, indicated late Monday she was taking a vacation from Facebook.

“I don’t need the added stress it is causing right now,” she posted. “Thanks for the prayers and support. We appreciate it very much.”

She did not, however, express appreciation toward the media.

“So, thanks Channel 12, for giving us the chance to let our family know about this next round of ‘stuff’ before posting it. (I can’t and won’t post what I really feel), and yes, I’m being sarcastic. They are now on the same list as the Inter-Mountain,” Cheryl Hawkins wrote.

She further indicated she doesn’t know what the near future holds, but “I can guarantee that we will stand together as a family through this.”

“We survived it once, and we will again,” she posted.

Cheryl Hawkins also alluded to the arrests of one of Keene’s attorneys, Paul J. Harris, and a local investigator, Franklin D. Streets Jr., though she didn’t list them by name.

“I refrained from sharing the post earlier this year regarding the attorney and investigator who were arrested, but that’s the legal team behind this. Imagine that?” she wrote.

A Google search revealed an article updated June 19 by the State Journal in which it was reported Wheeling attorney Harris and Barbour County private investigator Streets Jr. were to be arraigned in Harrison County on charges of conspiring to interfere with a witness in a criminal case against a former Shinnston policeman.

According to the State Journal, “Harrison County Prosecutor Joe Schaffer says a county grand jury indicted the men … and the charges include conspiracy to commit threats in official and political matters, and conspiracy to commit witness intimidation. Schaffer says Harris represents former Shinnston police (officer) Kevin Junkins Jr., who was awaiting trail on charges of drug possession, burglary and embezzlement.

The article stated Harris will “aggressively defend himself against the charges.”

These charges are not connected to Keene or the allegations brought forth in the civil lawsuit.