Sheriff files response to civil suit

By Katie Kuba

City Editor

Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins has denied allegations he sexually assaulted Brittany Mae Keene and five other unidentified women – and has asked that “unnecessarily sensational” language be stricken from a federal civil complaint filed against him by Keene in July.

In a response filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in Elkins, Hawkins’ attorney, Harry A. Smith III of the Elkins law firm McNeer, Highland, McMunn and Varner, asks that a complaint brought by Keene, 19, of Moatsville, be dismissed and that Hawkins be awarded court costs and attorney fees.

Keene’s complaint, which names the sheriff and the Barbour County Commission as co-defendants, accuses Hawkins of sexually assaulting her “in late July/early August of 2011” and then repeatedly threatening to kill her if she told anyone.

Hawkins denies “specifically and categorically” 14 of the 15 allegations contained in Keene’s complaint, which include unlawful arrest, excessive force, civil conspiracy, tort of outrage/intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery, false imprisonment, assault, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, sexual assault, providing alcohol to a minor and dissemination of a nude photo to a minor.

The sole count in which he’s not accused of any wrongdoing, Count 8, charges the Barbour County Commission with negligent training and supervision. Hawkins and Smith take issue with language used by Keene’s attorneys, Paul J. Harris and Shawn L. Fluharty of the Wheeling law firm, Harris Law Office. Specifically, the sheriff’s response calls Keene’s allegation that the county commission “failed to provide training in how not to act ‘in a brutish fashion as would a Neanderthal’ … “silly, unnecessarily sensational, and blatantly attention-seeking” – and asks for it to be stricken from the complaint.

In Count 8 of Keene’s suit, the county commission also is accused of failing to train Hawkins “how to act in a sane and civilized fashion.”

In addition to denying allegations he sexually assaulted Keene, Hawkins denies sexually assaulting five other unidentified females, who are referenced in Keene’s complaint as Females No. 1-5. The sheriff also specifically refutes having “a proclivity and tendency for violence and excessive force” and a “proclivity for unlawfully and completely unnecessarily using excessive force on citizens and arrestees.”

Hawkins says he never “arranged” to have Keene indicted in retaliation for her filing a domestic violence petition against him, adding that he was not “involved in the investigation of criminal charges against her.” According to previous Inter-Mountain reports, Keene was indicted in Barbour County Circuit Court in May 2012 on one felony count of receiving stolen property and two misdemeanor counts of transferring stolen property.

Those indictments later were dismissed without prejudice on Aug. 17, 2012, after Keene’s defense attorney at the time, Harris, filed a motion citing outrageous government misconduct and deficiency with the indictments.

The indictments alleged Keene came into possession of two guitars stolen from Haven of Hope Church in March 2012. At the time of her indictments, Keene claimed she was being targeted in retaliation for filing a domestic violence protection order petition against Hawkins.

Hawkins does, however, make several admissions in his response, including the fact that he was in communication with Keene via Facebook “at some time during the summer of 2011 … such communication being in the exercise of his official duties.” Hawkins also admits he obtained a copy of Keene’s resume after learning she was seeking employment at the Barbour County E-911 Communications Center. Hawkins’ response says the sheriff then immediately forwarded the resume to the Barbour County 911 director because he has “no involvement with the management of the 911 communication center or its personnel decisions.”

In her complaint, Keene alleges Hawkins obtained her cell phone number from that resume, began texting her and arranged to meet her “under the pretext of interviewing (Keene) for the 911 job.” According to Keene’s account, Hawkins allegedly met her in the parking lot of Shop ‘N Save in Barbour County and then proceeded to take her to a county-owned trailer at the Barbour County Fairgrounds, where he allegedly sexually assaulted and photographed her naked while in uniform.

Finally, Hawkins admits that he “may have been in communication” with Keene on May 7, 2012, the date Keene is alleging Hawkins sent her a threatening text message that read, “And you still want me to try to keep you from getting indicted… .” However, Hawkins denied making any threats and said any communication he had with her “would have either been in the exercise of his official duties or in response to (Keene’s) supplication for (Hawkins’) assistance as to certain criminal charges which she was facing at the time.”

Smith, Hawkins’ attorney, did not return messages left at his office by presstime Friday.

On Friday, Barbour County Administrator Chuck Foley told The Inter-Mountain he wasn’t aware of any changes in Hawkins’ employment status.