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Indictment dismissed against teen

Charges could resurface in October grand jury

August 18, 2012
By Melissa Toothman Staff Writer ( , The Inter-Mountain

A variety of charges were dropped in Barbour County Circuit Court this week against a Philippi woman who has accused Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins of sexual misconduct.

Citing outrageous government misconduct and deficiency with the indictment, a motion by defense attorney Paul Harris was filed to dismiss the charges in the indictment against Brittany Mae Keene, 18.

Keene was indicted in May on 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 in March.

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Keene has claimed she was indicted in retaliation for filing a petition for a domestic violence protection order against Hawkins in May. Hawkins has denied Keene's accusations.

In the motion to dismiss, the reasons given suggest the indictment is deficient because it fails to identify the person from whom Keene allegedly received the property.

The indictment is required to list the name of the person whom Keene received the guitars from or otherwise state that the owner's name is unknown to the grand jury. Count I, the felony charge of receiving stolen property, did not contain the requirements.

Two misdemeanor counts of transferring the stolen property also were considered defective.

"You have to put in the indictment that the property was received with a dishonest purpose," said Kurt Hall, special prosecuting attorney. The two misdemeanor counts did not include this statement.

Senior Status Judge John Henning dismissed the indictment against Keene without prejudice on Thursday. Hall did not formally object to the dismissal.

The indictment against Keene will be corrected and is expected to be presented again to the grand jury in October. The prosecution has received a recorded statement in which Keene confesses to the alleged crime.

The motion also stated the indictment should be dismissed for outrageous government misconduct in violation of due process clauses contained in the federal and West Virginia constitutions.

"All the other allegations we didn't even address," Hall said.

Barbour County Prosecuting Attorney Leckta Poling and Circuit Judge Alan D. Moats voluntarily recused themselves June 11 from the felony indictment case involving Keene.

Poling stated she recused herself from the indictment case to maintain the integrity of the court system and confidence of the public in these matters because of a perceived appearance of impropriety raised publicly by Keene.

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

Henning was appointed by the state Supreme Court to oversee the indictment case after Moats recused himself.

Joseph Shaffer of Harrison County, or his representative, has been nominated to serve as special prosecutor in the case. Hall, an assistant prosecutor in Harrison County, has taken on the role as special prosecutor.

Harris took over Keene's representation from Philippi attorney Justina Helmick, who had been appointed by the court.

Keene was named in a Barbour County Grand Jury sealed indictment May 29, 18 days after she filed the petition for a domestic violence protection order against Hawkins. She was arrested the same day as the indictment. Keene withdrew her petition June 5.

Poling told The Inter-Mountain later in June that she met with Keene in August 2011 about her alleged sexual relationship with Hawkins. Poling said Keene also alleged sexual relationships with two other law enforcement officers.

Poling said she contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the West Virginia State Police to pass along the information from the meeting.

Poling said Keene initially described her alleged sexual relationship with Hawkins as consensual. However, Keene claimed in the petition for a domestic violence protection order that Hawkins raped her in July 2011, when she was 17.

While it is The Inter-Mountain's practice not to name the victims of alleged sexual assault, Keene has asked to go on record.

On June 15, after declining for weeks to comment about the situation, Hawkins took to his personal Facebook page to deny Keene's allegations.



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