BRYAN CLARK Spirit Staff
WHEELING – Former sheriff Robert “Bobby” Shirley was sentenced to a prison term of one year and one day by a federal judge in Wheeling today, following a two-hour sentencing hearing.
Shirley requested the privilege of self-reporting to prison, but Judge John Preston Bailey denied that request, saying that he was concerned the former lawman might harm himself. Several defense witnesses testified that he had been severely depressed in recent months, though they said his outlook had improved after seeking counseling.
Shirley was immediately remanded to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.
In January, Shirley pleaded guilty to the charge of deprivation of rights under color of law for using excessive force when arresting Mark Daniel Haines, a since-convicted bank robber, following a high-speed chase in 2010.
Though Shirley’s defense continued to disagree with prosecutors about the precise nature of the events surrounding Haines’ arrest, Shirley admitted that he exceeded the legal bounds for an arresting officer.
The one-year sentence was significantly less than the 33-month minimum recommended by a pre-sentence report prepared by the federal probation office. Addressing an open court room filled with about 60 supporters of Shirley, Bailey acknowledged that, since he had been a law enforcement officer for 30 years, “any amount of prison is going to be very difficult for him.”
The sentence was more severe than that sought by Shirley’s defense team, however, which asked Bailey to consider supervised release or home confinement as an alternative sentence to imprisonment.
Bailey acknowledged Shirley’s contribution to the safety of Jefferson County through his years as a sheriff and a deputy.
“He has helped to make the community safer by taking dangerous criminals off the street,” he said. “As a sworn law enforcement officer, the defendant had a duty to uphold the law.”
Bailey said Shirley failed to uphold this oath when he stomped on Haines’ head while he was being restrained by several other law enforcement officers, and he reminded the audience that Haines “was innocent at that time in the eyes of the law.”
“(Shirley) was tasked with that duty every day – to uphold the law,” said Bailey. “He did not do this on that day.”
Shirley’s sentencing recommendations, contained in the report, were increased because, according to prosecutors and Bailey, he attempted to convince others to produce false documents and alter their testimony while he was on pre-sentencing release. Bailey upheld the “obstruction of justice enhancement.”
Shirley will also have to pay about $1,855 in reparation to Haines.
There was an outburst in the hallway following the hearing, as Shirley’s supporters reacted to the decision with anger and sorrow.