By Lawrence Smith
The WV Record
CHARLESTON A Mingo County man is accusing police in Gilbert of civil rights violations when he was arrested for refusing to sign a traffic citation.
The town of Gilbert is named in an eight-count lawsuit filed by Verner Fred Poe Jr. in U.S. District Court. In his complaint filed Sept. 20, Poe, 64, alleges two Gilbert police officers falsely arrested and detained him following a traffic stop in 2009 and then continued to press charges against him despite a magistrate's finding he was not obligated to sign the citation they issued him.
According to his suit, Poe, a resident of Verner, was traveling along W.Va. 80 in Gilbert on Oct. 30, 2009. About 6:08 p.m., he was stopped by GPD Officers B.T. Sipple and R. Toler.
Poe says he was told by Sipple and Toler he was stopped for a burned out headlight on his Chevy Silverado. After providing them his license and registration, Poe was told his registration was expired, and he was being issued a citation for it and the burned out headlight.
According to the suit, when Sipple presented the traffic citation, Poe "politely advised Sipple that he did not have to sign" it. Despite being informed by Sipple he would be taken to jail if didn't, Poe again refused to sign the citation.
The suit alleges Sipple opened the driver's side door and grabbed Poe's left leg while Toler grabbed his right leg in an effort to remove him from the vehicle. After Poe grabbed hold of the steering wheel "in an effort to protect himself," the suit continues, "Sipple and Toler became more enraged and pulled harder" on his legs.
Eventually, Poe exited the vehicle voluntarily. After he did, he was handcuffed by both Sipple and Toler and placed under arrest.
Following his arrest, Sipple and Toler placed him in the back of their cruiser and took him to the police department for processing. Before they left, the suit alleges, they told Poe's brother-in-law Theodore Wolford, who was a passenger in the vehicle, to drive it back to Poe's place despite the fact Wolford did not have valid driver's license.
After being held at the department for two hours, Poe was taken to Mingo Magistrate Court in Williamson and charged with expired registration, defective equipment, failure to sign a citation, obstructing an officer and two counts of battery on an officer.
According to the suit, Magistrate Pam Newsome found no probable cause to the failure to sign charge, and informed Sipple and Toler that Poe had "no legal obligation to sign the citation."
Despite Newsome's finding, Sipple and Toler said they wanted to proceed with the remaining charges. Newsome then set a bench trial.
Prior to the trial, the suit alleges Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks offered Poe a plea agreement which he rejected. The remaining charges were dismissed when neither Sipple, Toler nor Sparks showed for the bench trial.
As a result of his arrest, Poe alleges he not only suffered "a loss of physical liberty," but also "injuries to his body and person, and great emotional and mental trauma and distress." In his suit, Poe makes claims against the town for excessive and unreasonable use of force, false arrest and unlawful detainment, negligent hiring, failure to train and failure to supervise, intentional infection of emotional distress and negligence.
Poe seeks unspecified damages, interest, attorney fees and court costs. He is represented by Charleston attorneys Jennifer Narog Taylor, and Robert M. Williams with the law firm Maroney, Williams, Weaver and Pancake.
The case is assigned to Judge Thomas E. Johnston.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number 11-cv-645.