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Civil suit against county settled for $75,000

A civil suit against the Pocahontas County Commission and the Pocahontas County Sheriff’s Department will not go to trial because the parties agreed to a monetary settlement of $75,000.

In October 2012, Jessica Roberts filed a civil suit against the Commission, the Sheriff’s Department and former Sheriff’s Department officer Bradley C. Totten. In her complaint, Roberts claimed that Totten, while on duty as a police officer, coerced her to engage in sexual intercourse on two occasions in the fall of 2010. Roberts also claimed that Totten continued to harass her after she started working in the Prosecuting Attorney’s office in March 2011. Roberts claimed she was forced to quit the job after one month as a result of the harassment.

The complaint alleged that Totten’s actions were “the result of a policy, practice and custom of the Pocahontas County Commission and Pocahontas County Sheriff’s Department to inadequately supervise and discipline law enforcement officers who were engaged in sexual harassment.”

Roberts claimed that the defendants had violated her civil rights and were liable for the torts of outrage, constructive discharge, and hostile work environment sexual harassment. Roberts demanded a jury trial and unspecified compensatory damages. Robert’s lawsuit was originally filed in Pocahontas County Circuit Court, but was removed to federal court in Elkins on a motion by the Sheriff’s Department.

Roberts was represented by Erika Klie Kolenich and Geoff Varney, with Klie Law Offices in Buckhannon. The Commission and Sheriff’s Department were represented by Joanna Tabit and Joseph Leonoro, with Charleston law firm Steptoe and Johnson. Totten was represented by John L. MacCorkle and James Stacy with Charleston law firm MacCorkle, Lavender and Sweeney.

On October 21, Judge John Preston Bailey, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, issued an order dismissing the lawsuit. The order states: “Inasmuch as the plaintiff in this case has informed this Court that all parties have reached a settlement agreement on all issues in the above-styled action, it is ordered that this civil action be, and the same is, hereby dismissed with prejudice and
retired from the active docket of this Court, subject to reopening on motion of any party, and for good cause shown, within ninety days.”

On Monday afternoon, Tabit reported that the lawsuit had been settled for a total of $75,000. Roberts was not awarded attorney fees under the terms of the settlement.

Totten is currently incarcerated at the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville, serving a 10-year sentence for felony sexual abuse by a guardian or custodian. Totten’s criminal conviction resulted from crimes not involving Roberts.

The West Virginia Association of Counties, the County Commission’s insurer at the time of the incidents involving Roberts, is expected to pay the settlement amount.

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