The fact that Jefferson County Sheriff Bobby Shirley was indicted this week by a federal grand jury on two criminal charges does not mean his name will automatically be removed from the ballot in his bid for re-election in November, according to state officials.
“His name can stay on the ballot,” West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said Wednesday. “Our Constitution allows you to be innocent until proven guilty. Therefore his status has not changed.”
Shirley is charged with using unreasonable force in 2010 while arresting a suspected bank robber and with obstruction of justice for allegedly falsifying a report on the incident.
Reva Mickey, head of the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee, said Wednesday that she didn’t see how Tennant could remove Shirley from the ballot while Keith Judd, a convicted federal felon serving a 17-year sentence in Texas, was able to run against President Barack Obama in the May 8 West Virginia primary.
Judd won 41 percent of the statewide vote against Obama’s 59 percent, according to official primary results.
West Virginia law would require Shirley to vacate his office if convicted, Tennant said.
Shirley, a Democrat, is opposed in November by Earl Ballenger, 64, of Millville, W.Va., a retired 24-year veteran of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.
Ballenger said he “doesn’t have an opinion on Shirley’s legal troubles. It seems like he’s gotten himself into a jam, at least from what I read, but I don’t want to run a negative campaign. I’m looking forward to running against him in the general election if it gets that far.”
Ballenger, who is making his first bid for elected office, was unopposed in the Republican primary.
Shirley beat former Sheriff Ed Boober in the Democratic primary in May.
“I was disappointed and embarrassed on behalf of the law-enforcement community over the allegations that have been put in place,” Boober said of the charges against Shirley.
Jefferson County Commissioners Frances Morgan and Dale Manuel also commented on Shirley’s legal troubles.
“I can only say that I have always found Sheriff Shirley to be responsive to and respectful of the citizens of this county and their needs. I hope these allegations turn out to be unfounded. Now it’s time to let the legal system work this out.”
Manuel said he only knows what he’s been reading about Shirley. “We have to wait to see what the court system comes up with. I have no idea what occurred in this particular situation. The sheriff now has an opportunity to defend himself.”
Shirley is charged with one count each of deprivation of rights under color of law on Dec. 27, 2010, in Berkeley County, W.Va., and destruction, alteration or falsification of record in a federal investigation on Sept. 18, 2011, during and following the arrest of Mark Daniel Haines, an accused serial bank robber, according to the indictment.
Jefferson County deputies pursued Haines into Berkeley County following the robbery of a bank in Ranson, W.Va. When he was finally apprehended, Haines, in an official complaint, said he was severely kicked and beaten by Shirley while 14 other deputies looked on.
Haines pleaded guilty to robbing a BB&T Bank branch in Martinsburg, W.Va., and was sentenced to 19 years in prison.
Kevin D. Mills, Shirley’s attorney, said Shirley will plead not guilty to both charges.
“We are confident the citizens in the Eastern Panhandle will vindicate the actions that Sheriff Shirley took in helping to arrest a serial, dangerous, fleeing bank robber,” Mills said in a statement.
Shirley has not appeared in court on the charges contained in the indictment. Mills said Wednesday that Shirley’s arraignment has not been scheduled.
To see the videos in their entirety, click the links below.
Dash Cam Video #1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUI_ortsKs4
Dash Cam Video #2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfQZUUagods