CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The top federal prosecutor for Northern West Virginia says he didn't give special treatment to the Clarksburg police chief and lieutenant by allowing them to step down to avoid prosecution for lying to federal agents.
U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld II announced Tuesday that Chief Marshall Goff and Lt. Tim Smith are accused of civil rights violations and making false statements to federal authorities. Both resigned Monday after making a deal with federal prosecutors never to serve as law enforcement officials again.
On April 2, Clarksburg police were called to Clarksburg City Councilman Sam "Zeke" Lopez's home, where his wife claimed Lopez pinned her down, hit her with a rolling pin and dumped food on her during an argument.
Lopez wasn't arrested until July 3, weeks after he was re-elected to the City Council. He is charged with one count of domestic battery.
"Goff and Smith became involved in the response, and the actions that they took led to a separate investigation into their handling of the case," Ihlenfeld said in a news release.
Ihlenfeld told the Sunday Gazette-Mail on Friday he didn't know if the men will be allowed to keep their pensions but said it wasn't mentioned in the agreement. They agreed to cooperate with authorities in the investigation into the handling of the Lopez case, he said.
"This was a case where we struck a balance between addressing the conduct that occurred and also doing what we believe to be fair," said Ihlenfeld, who handles the state's Northern District.
"There's not a law that protects them," he said, adding that he can see how the public might think the pair got off easy.
"One of the benefits to the agreement that was reached was that both officials resigned immediately," he said. "Had we prosecuted them and charged them with criminal offenses, they would have possibly remained in their positions, and we wanted to be able to address that immediately."
Ihlenfeld told the Gazette-Mail he would not release details of the officers' involvement in the response. He did say, however, that one reason for the delay in charging Lopez was that the Harrison County prosecutor recused himself and a Marion County prosecutor was appointed before a warrant was issued for Lopez' arrest.
"It wouldn't be fair to put all of the facts out to exactly what their conduct was," Ihlenfeld said. "As far as whether or not their actions delayed the charging of Mr. Lopez, I'm not sure if it did or not."
Ihlenfeld added that Goff and Smith were immediately forthcoming with information when approached by investigators.