PHILIPPI, W.Va. — A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed against Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins. It alleges he sexually assaulted a teenager in August 2011. The woman, now 19, claims she thought she was meeting Hawkins for a job interview when he allegedly forced himself on her and then threatened her to keep her quiet.
The sheriff released a statement Tuesday morning in response to be served with the lawsuit Monday.
“First and foremost, I deny the allegations in the complaint,” Sheriff Hawkins said. “As for me and my office, I am surrounded by a competent and caring staff. The Sheriff’s Office in Barbour County will continue to operate on a daily basis. We will handle business to the best of our ability and respond to your needs as quickly and efficiently as we can.”
The lawsuit names Hawkins as well as the Barbour County Commission as defendants.
There are 15-counts in the suit filed by the Harris Law Firm out of Wheeling. The documents include claims that Hawkins sexually assaulted another minor and four other women for a total of six victims.
The teen who filed the suit was indicted last year on charges of receiving stolen property. Hawkins was the lead investigator in that case. The charges were later dropped against her after she filed a domestic violence petition against Hawkins.
The suit includes allegations of unlawful arrest, excessive force, assault and battery, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and sexual assault.
Hawkins said Tuesday he has no plans to step down from office. “I am still in office and still serving the county.”
Sheriff Hawkins’ full statement:
On Monday morning, I was served with a notice that a Civil Suit had been filed in Federal Court, naming me, the Sheriff’s Office and the Barbour County Commission as defendants. The allegations in the Civil Suit are the same allegations that were lodged against me in another civil matter during the election in 2012.
First and foremost, I deny the allegations in the complaint.
Unfortunately in today’s society issues like these are tried more in the “Court of Public Opinion”, than in our Judicial System where they belong. By Monday afternoon, someone had tipped every news agency in the area of the lawsuit. Fortunately, one reporter gave me a courtesy call to allow me to comment and also inform my family of the issue before it went public.
Over the next few months, this lawsuit will proceed. Both sides have attorneys who will exchange information and negotiate. The outcome, the Plaintiff seeks money for damages caused by her allegations. Either they will get money or they won’t. That will be up to a jury to decide. The jury will be picked from the same citizens who will have been blitzed by the media coverage of this.
Therefore, my comments in the media will be brief. As I posted yesterday to my friends on a Social Media, which was copied to the front page of a newspaper, I am sorry my family and friends have to go through this yet again. No one knows until they live through this the toll it takes on spouses, children and other relatives. A simple task of going to the grocery store can become unbearable. And all of it over false allegations to try and get money.
As for me and my office, I am surrounded by a competent and caring staff. The Sheriff’s Office in Barbour County will continue to operate on a daily basis. We will handle business to the best of our ability and respond to your needs as quickly and efficiently as we can. Some tasks, such as Estates, Grants and other duties may be put on a back burner while I prepare a defense to these allegations, as our staff is limited.
I appreciate all the support you have shown me and my family by the calls, messages and prayers sent our way so far. It is sad it takes a tragic event such as this to appreciate the friends and support you have.
When I chose to run for public office it was to serve the citizens in the County I loved. I was born and raised here and this is where I wanted to raise my family. In the next few months I will have to re-evaluate that decision and make the decision that best serves my family. In the mean time, I am still in office and still serving the county.
John W. Hawkins
Statement from Harris Law Firm: