Hawkins sued for Facebook post
Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins has been sued for the second time in two weeks- this time in Barbour County Circuit Court, for a statement he posted on his Facebook page last week, court records show.
Franklin D. Streets Jr., a private investigator who also lives in Barbour County, names Hawkins in a two-count civil complaint filed July 25 that accuses the sheriff of libel and defamation.
The lawsuit was filed exactly one week after 19-year-old Brittany Keene, of Moatsville, filed a federal civil complaint against Hawkins alleging he sexually assaulted her and then threatened to kill her if she told anyone.
Keene’s July 18 complaint, which names the Barbour County Commission as a co-defendant, also accuses Hawkins of sexually assaulting five other women, referenced only as Females No. 1 through 5.
On June 24, Hawkins posted the following statement on his Facebook page: “Well if there is a good side to any of this, I have received a couple calls from people who were offered money by the investigator to sign false statements. Hmmmm. Print that on the front page! Anyway, logging off FB for a while friends so please don’t be offended if I don’t return your messages. Be safe. God bless you all!”
Hawkins’ Facebook account is public, meaning Facebook users who aren’t “friends” with him on the social media site – as well as anyone with Internet access – can still view his timeline or wall.
Hawkins did not return voicemail messages left on his cellphone and with the Barbour County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday.
Streets’ suit – which charges Hawkins with defamation in count 1 and outrage in count 2 – claims the sheriff’s statement was libelous because it allegedly accuses Streets of a crime.
“Upon information and belief, this publication (Facebook post) is made by (Hawkins) in retaliation for investigative work (Streets) performed regarding a lawsuit filed against John W. Hawkins and others (the Barbour County Commission) by a third person (Keene),” the lawsuit states.
Streets’ attorney is Shawn L. Fluharty of the Wheeling law firm Harris Law Office – the same firm that is representing Keene in the federal civil suit she’s brought against Hawkins. Fluharty is also an attorney for Keene, as is Paul J. Harris of Harris Law Office. In May, Harris and Streets were indicted in Harrison County Circuit Court on charges of conspiring to interfere with a witness in a criminal case against a former Shinnston policeman.
Streets’ July 25 complaint alleges Hawkins’ statements were “knowingly false and/or made with reckless disregard for their truth and/or made with criminal indifference to their truth.”
“Defendant John W. Hawkins’ … statements were made with evil design, for a malicious purpose and with intent to cause actual harm to Franklin D. Streets Jr., through falsehood,” it reads. “The conduct of (Hawkins) was atrocious, intolerable and so extreme and outrageous as to exceed the bounds of decency and is intolerable in a civil society.”
As a result of Hawkins’ June 24 post, Streets endured humiliation, mental and emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of reputation, annoyance, inconvenience, frustration, agitation, increased costs and expense, economic injury, damage to credibility and “other foreseeable and/or consequential loss,” Streets’ complaint alleges.
The suit “demands judgment against … Hawkins … in an amount in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limits that would adequately compensate (Streets) for the violations of law by the defendant, plus pretrial interest and post-trial interest and costs including reasonable attorney fees” in addition to punitive damages “in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limits (of Barbour County Circuit Court) in an amount to satisfy all reasons of law and public policy, for an award of punitive or exemplary damages and such further relief as a jury may find.”
Streets is demanding a trial by jury.
Fluharty did not return a message left at his office Wednesday.
Keene’s July 18 complaint accuses Hawkins, the Barbour County Commission and/or both of: unlawful arrest; excessive force; civil conspiracy; tort of outrage/intentional infliction of emotional distress; battery; negligent retention and hiring; false imprisonment; negligent training and supervision; assault; deliberate indifference; malicious prosecution; abuse of process; sexual assault; providing alcohol to a minor; and dissemination of a nude photo of a minor.
Hawkins has publicly denied Keene’s allegations on his Facebook page and in an official statement distributed to media outlets.
At its regular monthly meeting Monday, Barbour County Commission President Jedd Schola said the commission “had yet to find any evidence that the allegations are true” and said the commission “plans to deny” the allegations.
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.