CHARLES TOWN – Sheriff Robert “Bobby” Shirley will be arraigned on federal charges in Martinsburg on Monday at 2 p.m. before Magistrate Judge David Joel.
Shirley is accused of using excessive force during the 2010 arrest of Mark Daniel Haines, who later pleaded guilty to bank robbery and is currently serving a 19-year sentence, and with falsifying documents in order to obstruct an FBI investigation into the incident.
“A jury is going to be asked to decide if Sheriff Shirley was unreasonable in his use of force against Mr. Haines, the man that it is alleged Sheriff Shirley assaulted, and a jury will decide if Sheriff Shirley falsified a use of force report with the intent to obstruct the FBI,” said U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld, who will prosecute the case.
Shirley faces one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, which carries a 10-year prison term, and one count of destruction, alteration or falsification of a record in a federal investigation, which carries a 20-year term. Each also carries a fine of up to $250,000.
Ihlenfeld said the FBI’s investigation of Shirley has been going on since at least September 2011. During the course of the investigation, Ihlenfeld alleges, it was discovered that an official use of force report had been falsified by Shirley.
“These are documents that are filled out whenever a law enforcement officer has to use force to restrain somebody that they are attempting to arrest… The report has to contain some kind of justification as to why the force was necessary,” Ihlenfeld said. “A use of force report was falsified, and it was used to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.”
Ihlenfeld declined to elaborate on how the use of force report had been allegedly falsified by Shirley.
According to Kevin Mills, Shirley’s attorney, the sheriff has no plans to step down from his post and will continue to seek re-election in November. Shirley won the Democratic primary on May 8, besting rival Everett “Ed Boober two votes to one.
“He’s not prohibited by law (from continuing his run), and he feels like the voters have indicated their strong preference for his leadership. They trust his ability,” Mills said.“He intends to plead not guilty on the charges and looks forward to vindication.”
“He is disappointed that people from Washington have decided how local officers are supposed to do their jobs here in the Eastern Panhandle,” Mills said.
Ihlenfeld said that there will be both eyewitness and video testimony at Shirley’s trial. Mills said that all 14 officers involved in the arrest will be called to testify.
Mills claims Haines was violent and resisting arrest, and that arresting officers were only taking the steps necessary to subdue him. In a civil rights lawsuit filed against Shirley and 14 unknown police officers, Haines claims he had given up and was handcuffed while he was punched, kicked, tasered and stomped on.
Two videos of the arrest have so far been made public and are available on YouTube.
Mills claims the videos show Haines was violent and resisting arrest.
“You can see that the guy is violent, that he is resisting, that he is fleeing, and that all the officers on the scene are addressing a critical issue of protecting the community,” Mills said.
Harry Waddell, Haines’ attorney in the civil rights suit, disagreed.
“The video speaks for itself. I don’t see anywhere in the video Mr. Haines being violent or resisting,” Waddell said. “I completely reject the proposition that the video demonstrates anything like what Mr. Mills is saying.”
Mills also said that the videos do not allow viewers to grasp the events in context.
“There is a lot that the video doesn’t give context to,” Mills said. “It doesn’t show the chase that lasted 18 miles, and the kind of fear and the kind of state of mind that (officers) get into and the adrenaline running through a police officer’s body when he knows that a person that has threatened to use a gun is driving at high speeds endangering hundreds of motorists.”
Though numerous police cars were at the scene of the arrest, no other videos of the incident have yet surfaced.
“There are no other videos that we know of,” Mills said.