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WVSP in Philippi not investigating rape claim against sheriff

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia State Police in Philippi are not investigating claims made in a federal lawsuit against Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins that he raped a 17-year-old girl in 2010 and later threatened to kill her.

Sgt. J.A. White said no one in the Philippi Detachment is investigating Hawkins. Capt. John Bonazzo, commander of State Police Troop 3 in Elkins, said he would not confirm or deny that detectives from other detachments are looking into it.

State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous said Thursday that he had not heard of Hawkins or any criminal investigation into his alleged actions.

The woman, now 19, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Elkins claiming that Hawkins handcuffed and raped her during a job interview in 2010. The woman claims Hawkins used his authority to indict her on stolen-property charges that later were dropped and that he threatened her if she told anyone about the alleged rape, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, prepared by Harris Law Office in Wheeling, also claims that Hawkins sexually assaulted four other women and a 16-year-old girl.

Hawkins denied the allegations in a prepared statement issued Tuesday. He would not comment Friday.

The lawsuit seeks damages from the Barbour County Commission for "retaining Hawkins as an employee when it knew . . . of his proclivity for violence and predisposition toward violent acts."

Morgantown attorney Keith Gamble, who said he is representing the Barbour County Commission and not Hawkins, said his office has not received evidence cited in the lawsuit and has not begun to work on a response.

"The allegations are out there," Gamble said. "We're treating them in a serious manner, but they are just that -- allegations."

In Tuesday's statement, Hawkins said his responsibilities to settle estate matters and process grants might be "put on a backburner while I prepare a defense to these allegations." He updated his Facebook profile Wednesday, saying he is staying off the social media site to focus on his role as sheriff.

"Well if there is a good side to any of this, I have received a couple calls from people who were offered money by the investigator to sign false statements," Hawkins wrote in the post. "Print that on the front page!"

Paul Harris and Shawn Fluharty of Harris Law Office did not return a message seeking comment on Hawkins' post Friday.

The attorneys previously said they had photos, emails and copies of Facebook messages to corroborate the woman's claims.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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