Barbour County Prosecuting Attorney Leckta Poling and Circuit Judge Alan D. Moats have voluntarily recused themselves from a felony case involving a Philippi woman, following claims she made in an Inter-Mountain article, officials said.
In a press release Tuesday, Poling stated that she recused herself Monday to "maintain the integrity of the court system and confidence of the public in these matters due to a perceived appearance of impropriety raised publicly in the Elkins Inter-Mountain by the defendant, Brittany Mae Keene."
Keene, 18, was named in a Barbour County Grand Jury sealed indictment on May 29, 18 days after she filed a domestic violence protection order petition against Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins. She was arrested later in the day on May 29.
In the June 9 article, Keene claimed her indictment and arrest were intended to intimidate her into silence.
Poling told The Inter-Mountain in a phone conversation Tuesday that her decision to recuse herself was "not due to any misconduct."
"It's because of the public perception following The Inter-Mountain article," Poling said. "I still maintain that the charges are valid."
Poling recused herself from both the felony and misdemeanor cases pending against Keene. The West Virginia Prosecuting Attorney's Institute will appoint a special prosecutor to handle those cases, according to the press release. Keene will remain on bond under the supervision of the Barbour County Community Corrections program.
Moats, the 19th Judicial Court judge, recused himself from presiding over the felony case involving Keene. The West Virginia Supreme Court will appoint a new judge to preside over the felony case, according to the statement.
Keene filed the domestic violence protection order petition against Hawkins May 11 in Randolph County. A hearing was originally scheduled on the petition for May 24 in Randolph County, but the case was shifted to Barbour County instead, according to court representatives.
Barbour Family Court Judge Beth Longo then recused herself from the case because it involved the county sheriff, according to her office.
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals then appointed Judge Cornelia A. Reep of Doddridge and Harrison Counties Family Court to rule on the petition, according to a Supreme Court representative.
On June 5, Hawkins said at a Barbour County Commission meeting that "the civil petition that was filed against me" had been "dismissed" that afternoon in Harrison County Family Court.
In the June 9 article, Keene said she filed the petition because Hawkins had threatened to have her indicted, and also threatened her with death, if she spoke publicly about an alleged sexual relationship between them.
The Inter-Mountain would not normally name an alleged victim of sexual assault. However, Keene contacted The Inter-Mountain and asked to be identified and to comment on the case.
Keene said, because of the alleged threats, she had been staying at Women's Aid in Crisis in Randolph County when she filed the petition on May 11.
Contacted by The Inter-Mountain last week, Hawkins said he could only reiterate what he said in the commission meeting, that "the petition had been dropped" by the petitioner.
Hawkins said he had no further comment when contacted by The Inter-Mountain Monday.
The May 29 indictment charged Keene with one felony count of receiving stolen property and two misdemeanor counts of transferring stolen property. The indictment alleges Keene came into possession of two guitars stolen from Haven of Hope Church on or about March 22 or 23.
According to the indictment, the two guitars - a Takamine acoustic, with electric pickup, and an acoustic Ovation - are valued at more than $1,000. The indictment alleges Keene knew or had reason to believe the guitars had been stolen. Keene allegedly sold the Takamine guitar to Hank's Discount and Pawn Shop. The Ovation guitar was allegedly transferred by Keene to Lynn Marie Moore.
According to the documents requesting the appointment of a special prosecutor in the case, "the state has a recorded statement taken from the defendant wherein she admits that she drove a juvenile to the location near the church and he returned with the two guitars and that she took one of the guitars to Hank's Pawn Shop and got $50 and she gave the other guitar to a Lynn Moore to try and pawn for her."
The investigating officer in the indictment case is listed as Sgt. Todd Deffet of the Barbour County Sheriff's Department.
The request for the appointment of a special prosecutor states that Keene has also been charged, in a separate, non-Grand Jury case, with one misdemeanor count of underage consumption. The investigating officer in this case is listed as Patrolman Scott Gillis of the Philippi City Police.