State trooper claims immunity in Mingo civil suit
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A State Police trooper among those being sued by a Mingo County man in federal court over his involvement in a corruption scandal claims that his immunity in a criminal investigation should protect him in the civil case.
Charleston attorney Victor Flanagan filed a motion Thursday to dismiss his client, Trooper Brandon Moore, from the civil lawsuit filed by Robert Woodruff, the man former Mingo Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury plotted to have arrested to force his secretary, Woodruff's wife Kim, into an affair with him.
Moore was granted immunity in the criminal case against Thornsbury in return for his cooperation and testimony but the criminal charge against the judge has since been dropped.
Flanagan claims witnesses who testify in court, including police officers, are absolutely immune to any claims stemming from their testimony and that witnesses in courtroom proceedings receive absolute immunity from damages liability based on their testimony.
Woodruff's attorney, Richard Neely, wrote in a response filed Friday to Moore's motion that the assertion that Moore had immunity for anything said before the grand jury didn't change his liability for his participation in the conspiracy against Woodruff.
Flanagan also contends that the statute of limitations has expired, adding that Woodruff had one year from Dec. 2, 2008, to file a claim. Moore arrested Woodruff on Dec. 2, 2008, and charged him with grand larceny, receiving stolen property and obtaining money under false pretenses, charges that were dismissed in January, 2009.
Robert Woodruff alleges in his lawsuit that his arrest was the product of one of Thornsbury's schemes to get him out of the way so that the judge could pursue a relationship with Kim Woodruff. Neely responded that the statute of limitation didn't begin until the person knew that they had been wronged, in this case Woodruff learned about the conspiracy in September when Thornsbury was charged.
"Certainly the facts stated demonstrate that there was every effort to conceal the conspiracy from (Woodruff): It is the very nature of a conspiracy that the conspiracy be secret," Neely wrote.
Flanagan contends that Woodruff hasn't provided any evidence that show Moore's actions caused emotional distress. Neely responded that Woodruff was sorely injured and was required to hire an attorney and had anxiety over whether or not he would go to prison.
Flanagan states that Woodruff failed to provide any factual allegations of outrageous conduct by Moore.
"Well ... if some group of guys go out and deliberately fabricate a felony case against a person, exposing that person to the very real possibility of a prison term of one to five years for the express purpose of allowing one of the conspirators to sleep with the person's wife, it appears to be Defendant Moore's position that this is not 'outrageous,'" Neely wrote.
The story goes, according to the lawsuit filed Oct. 1 by Robert Woodruff's attorneys Richard Neely and Michael Callaghan, that Thornsbury made romantic advances toward Kim Woodruff but that she didn't return his ardor. While a federal indictment filed in August claims the two had an intimate affair, the Woodruffs' attorneys claim there was no sexual relationship or affair going on between Kim Woodruff and Thornsbury.
According to the lawsuit, Thornsbury encouraged Moore to arrest Robert Woodruff without cause. The judge then put Jarrod Fletcher, former county director of homeland security and emergency management, at the head of a grand jury further criminal proceedings against Woodruff.
The former judge, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to conspiracy charges in relation to a scheme to protect the slain Sheriff Eugene Crum in an FBI investigation, also tried to get Mingo resident Jeff Cline to plant a box of illegal drugs on Woodruff's vehicle, a plan Cline initially agreed to but backed out on later.
When both of those attempts failed, the judge conspired with others to have Woodruff arrested, the lawsuit said. Woodruff was arrested by Gilbert officer Nathan Glanden after a fight with two other men, even though a police report and surveillance video showed the man was acting in self defense.
That charge was later dismissed by former prosecutor Michael Sparks for a lack of evidence. Sgt. Michael Baylous, State Police spokesman, said to his knowledge Moore remained on administrative leave as of Monday.