CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The U.S. Attorney for West Virginia’s Northern District says former Clarksburg police chief Marshall Goff and one of his officers resigned to avoid being prosecuted for federal crimes.
U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld said Goff and Lt. Tim Smith had faced charges for civil rights violations and making false statements to federal agents after inappropriately intervening in a domestic battery case involving Clarksburg city councilman Sam “Zeke” Lopez.
“One of the most important things I can do as a United States Attorney is make sure we keep our public officials honest,” said Ihlenfeld on Tuesday.
Ihlenfeld said tips from the public prompted an investigation into the actions of Goff and Smith after Clarksburg police officers responded to an alleged domestic battery involving Lopez and his wife in early April.
“Goff and Smith became involved in the response to the domestic and the actions they took, in responding to that domestic, led to a separate investigation,” said the U.S. Attorney.
There had been allegations of tampering with the investigation or possible procedural violations.
Lopez, who is currently serving his fifth council term, was not arrested at the time. Instead, he turned himself in last Wednesday, July 3 and will face a misdemeanor domestic battery charge in state court. Ihlenfeld said the ongoing federal investigation into the response from Clarksburg police department will not affect that.
Goff had worked with the Clarksburg Police Department for more than 20 years. As part of the agreement with federal officials, neither Goff nor Smith can ever work as police officers again and both have agreed to cooperate with the continuing federal investigation.
“We are limited, as a council, on what we know,” Clarksburg Councilman Patsy Trecost told MetroNews about the two cases on Tuesday afternoon. “What we hope is to get to the bottom of this, be very transparent and, at the same time, move our city forward in as professional a manner as we can.”
On Tuesday morning, Clarksburg City Manager Martin Howe announced Lt. Robbie Hilliard will replace Goff, who had held the chief’s role since 2007.
“With the recent retirement and resignation of Chief Goff, I have been tasked with putting in an interim chief to move the city forward in the direction that we see fit,” said Howe. A search for a permanent replacement for Goff will begin soon.
Ihlenfeld said all public officials must follow the law.
“Most of the public officials we have in Harrison County and in North Central West Virginia and in the Northern District of West Virginia are very honest, very hardworking and they’re doing it for the right reasons,” he said.
“Unfortunately, there are always a handful who don’t do it for the right reasons.”
The case was investigated by the FBI, along with the West Virginia State Police and Bureau of Criminal Investigation—both of which are members of the West Virginia Public Corruption Task Force.
The public is urged to report tips to the Public Corruption Hotline at 1-855-WVA-FEDS (1-855-982-3337) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.