CHARLES TOWN – Sheriff Robert “Bobby” Shirley was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday afternoon on charges related to the arrest of bank robber Mark Daniel Haines, the Associated Press reported Tuesday night.
Shirley has been charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law and with altering or falsifying records while he was under investigation, according to reports. He could face up to 30 years in prison and a $500,000 fine if convicted.
Neither Shirley nor his lawyer Kevin Mills could be reached before press time, but Mills told the AP that Shirley plans to plead not guilty on both counts.
The indictments come on the heels of last week’s announcement that Shirley and 14 other unnamed police officers were being sued for violating Haines’ civil rights and committing assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Shirley has briefly responded to allegations that he and other law enforcement officers used excessive force when arresting Haines, though he has declined to answer any questions about the specific events of the arrest.
“Sheriff Shirley has a long, well-documented, and illustrious history of over 30 years of public service as a law enforcement officer and for the past 4 years as the Sheriff of Jefferson County,” states a press release from Mills.
Shirley offered a blanket denial of the allegations made by Haines and accused him of attempting to shift blame for the incident from Haines onto police officers.
Haines alleges that he was beaten by his arresting officers after he led them on a high-speed chase following a botched bank robbery in Ranson in December, 2010. Medical records show he had numerous injuries when he was examined after the arrest, including a broken nose, a broken sinus cavity and a broken eye socket.
Prior to the unveiling of the indictments, Mills declined to answer any specific questions about footage shot from the a dashboard camera in a police cruiser which recorded the arrest and Haines’ treatment by law enforcement officers. Shirley declined to speak with reporters at all, relying on his press release instead.
The video in question appears to show Shirley throwing several kicks while standing in the back of a pickup truck as Haines was being arrested, though it is unclear where they land. It also appears to show Shirley stomping once on Haines’ head.
Haines’ attorney Harry Waddell acknowledged Haines’ criminal behavior but said that it did not excuse the actions of the police in this case.
“There are two separate issues here. One is Mr. Haines’ actions, which he has admitted to and which he is already paying the price for,” said Waddell, noting that Haines is currently serving a nearly 20-year sentence for bank robbery. “Just as he is not above the law, the police – and, in particular, Sheriff Shirley – aren’t above the law. He is making a denial of excessive force, but there is a video tape that demonstrates quite clearly that he was guilty of excessive force.”
Haines alleges he surrendered and was immediately cuffed after the chase ended, and that he was not resisting arrest when he was beaten by law enforcement officers. Shirley’s release denies this one claim specifically, saying that Haines “resisted arrest.”