The following, originally posted at The West Virginia Record, was submitted by Lawrence J. Smith.
CHARLESTON – A Fayette County man is alleging he was brutalized by police following a traffic stop in Roane County late last year.
The West Virginia State Police and the Roane County Commission are named as co-defendants in lawsuit filed by Edward A. Fields in Kanawha Circuit Court. In his complaint filed Oct. 29, Fields, 32, of Smithers, alleges at least one trooper and two deputy sheriffs without provocation twice beat him into unconsciousness in December after stopping him and a friend while traveling to Jackson County.
Under state law, Kanawha Circuit Court has jurisdiction in civil suits involving state agencies, and county commissions are co-employers of deputy sheriffs.
According to the suit, while en route to Ripley, Fields and an unidentified friend went “mudding” by an unspecified golf course in Roane County on Dec. 28. At a time not specified, they were stopped by Trooper J.M. Bragg and another unidentified trooper.
Assisting in the stop were deputies Bo Williams and Jeff Smith. Fields alleges shortly after he approached the vehicle Williams began striking him in “the face with a Maglight flashlight without warning or explanation.”
Next, Fields says, Bragg “then pulled [him] out of his vehicle and proceeded to beat and kick him,” and was later joined by Williams and Smith. According to the suit, at some point Fields was “handcuffed while face down on the ground and beaten again until he lost consciousness.”
Upon regaining consciousness, Fields says Williams first placed his foot on the back of his neck and told him to “eat dirt,” then beat him on the back of his head with a flashlight. The beating, Fields says, caused him to again lose consciousness.
After he regained consciousness, the suit alleges Fields was placed in the back of one of the officers’ cruisers, transported to Roane General Hospital’s emergency room, treated for his injuries and later arrested. Fields, who is illiterate, says he was “forced to sign a statement that said he had fled the scene on foot, and “was told that if he did not sign the statement, the beating would continue.”
According to the Roane Magistrate Clerk’s Office, Fields on Dec. 29 was charged with false pretenses, conspiracy to commit a felony, obstructing an officer and fleeing on foot. Citing technical defects in the criminal complaint, Magistrate Jason D. Bennett dismissed the charges on March 30.
As a result of his encounter with Williams, Bragg and Smith, who are named as co-defendants in the suit, Fields says he suffered a broken right orbital bone, nose, teeth, and injuries to his abdomen and genitals that has caused him, among other things, “pain and suffering, mental and emotional anguish, humiliation and embarrassment.” He makes claims against the defendants for abuse of process and negligence.
Fields seeks unspecified damages, attorneys fees and court costs.
He is represented by Matt Criswell, March French and Steve Condaras with the Charleston law firm of Criswell, French and Condaras.
The case is assigned to Judge Carrie Webster.
Kanawha Circuit Court, case number 12-C-2180