Prosecutor not told ex-trooper falsified log
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia State Police didn't tell Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants that a former trooper likely committed a crime, according to court documents provided to the Gazette-Mail.
The State Police says in the documents that former trooper Derek Snavely falsified his duty log - a fact they left out of their criminal investigation report to Plants' office. A Charleston woman had accused Snavely of forcing her to have sex with him.
Based on the report, Plants decided not to prosecute Snavely. The woman has since sued Snavely and the State Police.
Plants said that if the State Police knew that Snavely -- who now is the police chief in Hinton -- had falsified his duty log, it should have been included in the case file.
"I don't know that file. I'll have to take your word on it," he said. "What's important here is ... if that [falsified document] exists, that is something that we should have been made aware of. It should have been included in the report that I received."
The 14-page Criminal Investigation Report, prepared by State Police 1st Lt. L.A. Bailes for Plants' office, makes no mention of a duty log, let alone of its being falsified. The log also is not mentioned in the list of exhibits attached to the report.
However, the State Police, in response to a series of questions from the woman's lawyer, Mike Clifford, said Snavely clearly altered his duty log:
"A copy of Defendant Snavely's duty log has previously been disclosed [to Clifford]. Notwithstanding, it is apparent that he falsified that log from the time that he met with Plaintiff until the end of his shift. Upon information and belief, the actions represented prior to Defendant Snavely's involvement with Plaintiff are accurate."
Sgt. Michael Baylous, spokesman for the State Police, said he would not talk about the Snavely case.
"I have discussed that with our legal counsel," he said. "I am not at liberty to make a statement on that case because it is currently in civil litigation."
Altering public records is punishable by up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine, according to State Code 61-5-22. The law reads that if any public officers "fraudulently make a false entry, or erase, alter or destroy any record in his keeping and belonging to his office ... he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."
Had Snavely been convicted of a misdemeanor, he probably would have been reviewed by the state Law Enforcement Training Subcommittee, which has the power to decertify police officers.
The subcommittee has decided to consider decertifying officers only if they have been convicted of a jailable offense, Chuck Sadler, state law enforcement training coordinator, has said.
Even if Snavely were decertified, he still could be Hinton's police chief, Sadler said.
Snavely resigned from the State Police in December 2008, after the woman accused him of rape.
Kanawha County prosecutors declined to bring charges against Snavely after reviewing the evidence presented to them, assistant Kanawha County prosecutor Dan Holstein has said. Two assistant prosecutors independently reviewed the case and agreed that there was no prosecutable offense, Holstein said.
Jama Jarrett, spokeswoman for Gov. Joe Manchin, said the governor will not tolerate wrongdoing in any state agency.
"If someone partakes in criminal activities or is incompliant, then we will investigate and determine the consequences," she said, before noting that Snavely no longer works for the State Police and that the case was turned over to Plants' office.
"From that point, it's the responsibility of the judicial system to hear all applicable evidence and make a decision based on information presented," she said.
In November 2009, the Gazette-Mail reported that several citizens had complained that Snavely harassed them.
Robin Crawford claimed that Snavely harassed him August 2009 while giving him a parking ticket in the Summers County town.
Crawford, who in 1987 was beaten by four officers from the Hinton police and Summers County Sheriff's Office, said he came out of the post office and Snavely told him not to drive off because he was going to write him a parking ticket. Crawford said he knew there was no money in the meter and didn't argue, but got in his car and waited for the ticket.
"Then he jerks me out of my car and starts barking instructions like I was on a plantation," said Crawford, who is black. "He said, 'I'll take your goddamn ass to jail.'"
On Friday, Crawford said that he lives in Hinton, but doesn't often go out at night for fear of the chief of police.
"I don't feel safe being there," he said. "I live there, but I do all my business out of town. I hesitate to be caught by him."
Clifford, the woman's attorney, said Friday that State Police attorneys contacted him after they learned that he had given the Gazette-Mail the State Police's answers from the woman's civil lawsuit against Snavely.
"It is my understanding that counsel for the defense is suggesting that I violated a secrecy order by letting you see the interrogatory answers and the official police report that was submitted to the prosecuting attorney," said Clifford, a former Kanawha County prosecutor.
"I deny vehemently that I violated any protective order ... ," he said. "What [State Police] generally do is accuse the accuser, and it's my position that they should have looked at this in earnest rather than trying to protect their officer, which is clearly what they did."
Reach Gary Harki at email@example.com or 304-348-5163.