WV Civil Rights Lawyer

Police Misconduct, Civil Rights Law

Federal lawsuit against Wood County Sheriff’s Department in the news

In the Charleston Gazette this morning is an article on a federal lawsuit I filed yesterday on behalf of Brian Sawyer, replete with a video of his beating at the hands of a Wood County, WV deputy.  This is an excessive force case which is currently the subject of an FBI investigation, as the article confirms.

This incident would have coasted under the radar if it were not for Sgt. Dave Westfall of the Wood County Sheriff’s Department, who blew the whistle on what happened, and saved the surveillance video of the beating, providing it to the FBI after his superior allegedly told him to not throw his fellow deputy “under the bus.” Westfall is a veteran of the U.S. Special Forces, with a distinguished career as a law enforcement officer.  He is also a certified self defense instructor and use of force instructor.  It goes to show that real men do not need to use their badge to beat people up.  Real men use restraint and act with a clear head.  Real men do what is right and would never cover up a civil rights violation just because he can.

Unfortunately, now Sgt. Westfall is defending himself against the Wood County Sheriff’s Department.  He alleges that he was caught by his superiors showing this video to two FBI agents secretly at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, and now they are seeking to discipline him for unrelated allegations.  And we wonder why other officers do not come forward to report misconduct . . . .  Their choice is to have a long, quiet career with no bumps in the road by staying quiet, or to do what is right and face persecution.

Now we all need to stand behind Sgt. Westfall and keep him from getting thrown under the bus for having integrity.

This is a good lesson on what the proper role of the federal government is.  I was watching the Maynard / Rahall debate last night, and there was a lot of discussion on the proper role of the federal government.  There are a couple of things that we do need the federal government for: raising, maintaining, and operating a military; and stepping in to local situations where there is questionable accountability and integrity within state or local government.  Thank God we live in a country where we can go to the FBI if we believe that there has been a coverup or conspiracy among law enforcement at the state or local level.  Otherwise, what could we do?

UPDATE: (10/28/10)

Other Media Links for this case:

WTAP article

WTAP video (Note: during the video the anchor says something about Sawyer pleading guilty to assault on an officer, and at the exact time she says that you see Sawyer in the background being choked and held up off his feet.  Obviously a vicious assault against that officer.  Of course when he took the plea offer, he would have had no idea about the video, and without a video it’s like talking to a brick wall when you tell people you were beaten up.  That’s the usual way things work.  You get beaten up, and they charge you with assault.  Then they give you a good deal on the jail sentence if you just plead to assaulting an officer.)

News and Sentinel

Daily Mail

Statement released by Sheriff Jeff Sandy:

“On October 26th, 2010, a federal law suit was filed concerning alleged “excessive force” violations being committed by a former employee of the Wood County Sheriff’s Office. I assure the public that the Wood County Sheriff’s Office will continue to cooperate fully. As Sheriff of Wood County, I am responsible for all events that have occurred at the Wood County Sheriff’s Office since taking office. Under my watch the Sheriff’s office has not and will not tolerate illegal and unethical behavior by any employee that has taken the oath of office. The Wood County Sheriff’s Office has some great public servants, and this alleged incident should not reflect upon the entire organization. In ending, as Sheriff, I welcome any and all investigations by federal and state investigators, because after their investigation is completed it will show an unbiased detail of the events.”

Note: probably not coincidentally, I also have another case currently pending in federal court for a police beating which occurred in Parkersburg – Tim Mazza.  At least this time officials have not been blaming me or tort reform….

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October 27, 2010 - Posted by | Civil Liability, Corruption, DOJ, Governmental Liability, John H. Bryan, Lawsuits, Police, Police Misconduct

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