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Barbour sheriff responds to allegations

Hawkins uses social media to deny assertions made by Philippi woman

June 16, 2012
By Brad Johnson Senior Staff Writer , The Inter-Mountain

Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins took to a social media website Friday to deny allegations made by a Philippi woman who filed a domestic violence protection order petition against him and was then named in a sealed indictment.

On Hawkins' personal Facebook page Friday afternoon, he adressed his posts to people whom he said "hide behind fake names" on Facebook and other social media sites to "slander and bash" him.

"I deny the allegations as set forth in the petition you helped the young lady file and later, on advice of her own counsel, dropped because she couldn't prove," the post stated. "I have committed none of the crimes you blatantly accuse me of!

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"I have not coerced or manipulated the court system in this or any case," the post continued. "I had no involvement in the case in which my accuser was arrested. On the contrary, I purposely removed myself, as the judge and prosecutor now have, to avoid any possible conflict. ..."

Brittany Mae 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 Hawkins. She was arrested later in the day on May 29.

Keene withdrew the petition just before a hearing on the matter in Harrison County June 5.

In a June 9 Inter-Mountain article, Keene claimed her indictment and arrest were intended to intimidate her into silence.

On Monday, Barbour County Prosecuting Attorney Leckta Poling and Circuit Judge Alan D. Moats voluntarily recused themselves from the felony indictment case involving Keene.

In a press release Tuesday, Poling stated that she recused herself 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."

Poling also recused herself from a misdemeanor underage consumption charge pending against Keene.

For the past two weeks, Hawkins had declined to comment publicly on the situation when contacted by The Inter-Mountain.

The Inter-Mountain contacted Hawkins again Friday afternoon after the first Facebook announcement. He declined to comment on the post, but said an official press release would be forthcoming next week.

"Upon advice of legal counsel I have remained silent through this ordeal, letting the judicial system run its course," the Facebook post stated. "After talking it over with my wife, some real good friends and a long chat with Pastor Tim this morning, I'm done being silent."

In his Facebook posts Friday, Hawkins stated that he is weighing his options regarding his re-election bid.

"It is up to me, my family and you as to whether I continue my re-election campaign," the post stated. "It is a hard decision, one I can't take lightly. Can my family handle five more months of attacks? The alternative is to let these people who would use such tactics take over this office."

Hawkins also apologized to Barbour residents "for this mess we are all in."

"What a shame we can't just have an election and talk about the experience, training and knowledge of the candidates and pick the best one," the post stated.

Hawkins also thanked his loyal supporters in the posts.

"I thank each of you for all your support in the past, present and future," the post stated. "God bless each of you. I will continue to work here and do my best to do the job you elected me to do!"

Keene filed the domestic violence protection order petition against Hawkins May 11 in Randolph County. A hearing originally was 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.

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."



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