The Gilmer Free Press    The Gilmer Free PressELKINS, WV – A Barbour County woman’s lawsuit alleging while she was a teenager was coaxed into a sexual relationship by the former sheriff has come to a close.

Yesterday, trial was to begin in the case of Brittany Mae Keene v. John Wesley Hawkins, and the Barbour County Commission.  However, U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey on Monday entered an order dismissing it after receiving word Keene, 21, and Hawkins,49, mediated a tentative settlement.
Records show Keene agreed to voluntarily dismiss the Commission from the suit on Friday.

Telephone calls to both Keene’s, and Hawkins’ attorneys, Paul Harris, and Harry Smith III, inquiring about the terms of the settlement were not immediately returned.  Keith Gamble, attorney for the Commission, replied via email Tuesday noting Friday’s voluntary dismissal.

When asked if the Commission would still be required to disclose the terms since Hawkins was sued in his official capacity, and the county’s insurance carrier was footing the bill, Gamble replied “not necessarily,” and referred further questions to Smith.

In her complaint filed nearly two years ago, Keene alleged Hawkins began a series of conversations with her via Facebook in late July or early August 2011.  At the time, she was 17 years-old, and he was in his first term as sheriff.

About that time, Keene alleged Hawkins lured her to a camper at the county fairgrounds under the pretext of interviewing her for a job at county 911 center.  After entering the camper, she claims Hawkins offered her alcohol to drink.

When she attempted to leave, Keene claimed Hawkins pulled her back into the camper where he handcuffed her, stuffed a bandana into her mouth, and sexually assaulted her.  Both after the encounter, and via subsequent text messages, Keene alleged Hawkins threatened to kill her if she spoke publicly about what happened.

However, Keene filed a domestic violence protective order against Hawkins on May 11, 2012. A week before a scheduled hearing on her petition, Keene was indicted by the Barbour County grand jury for receiving stolen property.

Though it was later dismissed, Keene alleged the indictment was brought as a form of retaliation for filing her domestic violence petition.

In her suit, Keene alleged she was not the only victim of Hawkins’ “deviant sexual behavior.”  She claimed to have knowledge of at least five other women raging from 16- to 19-years old, Hawkins had sex with either while on duty or on county property.

Records show a trial date was rescheduled twice, the second time in February to accommodate Hawkins’ release from prison following his conviction on an unrelated mail fraud charge.

According to indictment brought against him via information by U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II on February 11, 2014, Hawkins ten months earlier wrecked a 2004 GMC Envoy owned by his wife at a farm on Jerusalem Church Road in Philippi he, and one of his deputies used to raise cattle.  Following the wreck, Hawkins instructed the deputy, whose name is not specified in the indictment, to misstate how, and where the wreck occurred.

After filing a claim with them, the indictment states Nationwide sent GMC Financial, who had a lien on the truck, one check for $8,167.25 on April 15, 2012, and another for $95.40 on June 10.

An indictment via information is where a defendant waives his right to have his case presented to the grand jury, and intends to plead guilty.

At the time of his indictment, Hawkins was in his second term as sheriff.  He was re-elected in 2012 with no opposition.

Records show that exchange for pleading guilty, resigning as sheriff, surrendering his law enforcement certification and agreeing never to serve in an law enforcement capacity again, U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed it would not prosecute Hawkins for charges stemming from an investigation into his mismanagement of an estate, and funds from the Sheriff’s tax office.

Last June, Bailey sentenced Hawkins to one year, and a day in prison followed by three years supervised probation.  In addition to a $100 special assessment, Hawkins was ordered to make full restitution to GMC Financial.

Records show Hawkins paid the assessment the day of his sentencing, and $2,000 toward the restitution a week later.

The following July, Hawkins was ordered by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to serve his sentence at the Federal Corrections Institution in Memphis, Tenn.  Records show he was released on May 28.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, case numbers 13-cv-49 (Keene civil) and 14-cr-11 (Hawkins criminal)

~~  Lawrence J. Smith ~~