Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Civil Rights: Former county sheriff pleads guilty to civil rights violation

U.S. Attorney’s Office 
Northern District of West Virginia

MARTINSBURG, WV—Former Jefferson County Sheriff Robert E. Shirley pleaded guilty today to violating the civil rights of another by using excessive force during the arrest of a bank robber in late 2010.

United States Attorney William Ihlenfeld, II announced that Shirley, who resigned his position on Friday, admitted to the felony offense of deprivation of rights under color of law at a hearing held this afternoon in Martinsburg. Shirley had been charged in a two-count indictment with kicking bank robbery suspect Mark Daniel Haines in the head at least five times, breaking his nose and fracturing his orbital bone. The injuries were inflicted on December 27, 2010, at the conclusion of a two-county chase of Haines, who had attempted to rob City National Bank in Ranson, West Virginia. By pleading guilty, Shirley agreed that while acting under the color of law, he deprived Haines of his right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer.

The incident was captured on video by cameras from police cruisers that were involved in the pursuit of Haines.

The second count of the indictment, which charged Shirley with destruction, alteration, or falsification of record in a federal investigation, was dismissed as part of the plea agreement. That count alleged that Shirley had falsified an entry in his Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office use of force report with the intent to obstruct the federal investigation into the assault.

“It’s unfortunate when a member of the law enforcement community exceeds the scope of his authority and inflicts injuries upon a helpless person,” said U.S. Attorney Ihlenfeld. “The best way to deal with bank robbers like Mark Haines is through the criminal justice system and not by the use of unnecessary violence.”

Haines has since pleaded guilty in federal court to robbing a BB&T branch in Martinsburg and was sentenced to 225 months’ imprisonment on that charge. He still faces a federal charge for attempted to escape from the Eastern Regional Jail and faces up to 10 years in prison on that charge.

As a result of his felony conviction Shirley faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and three years of supervised release. His sentence may be impacted by his conduct while on pre-trial release, in which it is alleged that Shirley attempted to influence the testimony of one of the government’s witnesses. Shirley will remain free pending sentencing, but he has been placed onto home confinement and was required to turn over all of his firearms.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Paul T. Camilletti with assistance from the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.