CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Moorefield police officer who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a woman, then later said that plea was a lie, might lose his certification as a police officer if it is revoked by a state committee.
The officer, Galen Reel, has not been convicted of a jailable offense, the committee's stated threshold for investigating whether an officer should be decertified. However, Sgt. Curtis Tilley of the West Virginia State Police said the committee is asking its legal counsel to review the case to see whether the panel should consider revoking Reel's accreditation.
Tilley said the Law Enforcement Training Subcommittee of the Governor's Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Corrections, which has the power to decertify West Virginia police officers, is reviewing Reel's court files because of "complicated" circumstances surrounding his case.
"Right now, the committee has legal counsel reviewing all the court documents in regards to that case, to determine whether it falls in the committee's boundaries," Tilley said. "As you can imagine, there are stacks and stacks of court documents in regards to that one.
"It's a complicated case," Tilley said of the circumstances surrounding Reel. "Some different things happened there."
Reel, who was unavailable for comment for this report, was accused of sexually assaulting Mary Ann Groves while on duty in 2006. He pleaded guilty to the crime, then said the plea was a lie. He was subsequently acquitted at trial.
Groves has sued Reel. Her lawyer, Aaron Harrah, reported Reel to the committee.
Groves "wants to make sure that what happened to her doesn't happen to anybody else," Harrah said. "I don't know why the town of Moorefield condones, at a minimum -- even if you don't believe my client -- having sex while on duty and getting paid by the taxpayers."
'It was just out of the blue'
About 3 a.m. on Dec. 30, 2006, Groves, then a 28-year-old West Virginia University student, says she was driving through Moorefield when a police car pulled out behind her.
According to Groves' testimony at the trial, she had a glass of wine much earlier in the evening and was not drunk. She was driving home after visiting a friend in Virginia when Reel pulled her over.
She said Reel, a K-9 officer, asked her to get out of her car to look at his dog, and then told her to get into his car. After the two talked in his patrol car a few minutes, she said Reel asked her a lewd question.
"I was absolutely shocked," Groves said at Reel's trial. "There was no ... it was just out of the blue. There was no indication that this kind of ... of question was even coming."
After a few more minutes of talking, Groves said, Reel groped her. She said she froze because she didn't know what to do.
"I knew that there was the dog that had already displayed aggression," she said at trial. "I knew that he was a police officer, and at this point, you can't really assault a police officer."
She testified that Reel continued to sexually assault her and then made her masturbate him.
Groves reported the incident on Jan. 31, 2007, to the State Police. When interviewed in early February, Reel refused to give the State Police a statement about that evening. During the investigation, a semen sample given to police by Groves matched Reel. He was indicted on five felony charges of sexual assault.
On Jan. 9, 2008, Reel pleaded guilty to two counts of sexually motivated battery and agreed to register as a sex offender and to resign as a Moorefield police officer.
Two days later, he revoked his guilty plea and requested reinstatement as a Moorefield police officer, according to court documents. He said he pleaded guilty while he was under emotional distress from a separate matter, according to court documents.
On Jan. 14, 2008, Circuit Judge Donald Cookman revoked Reel's guilty plea, calling it "blatantly dishonest." He sent Reel to the regional jail on a $50,000 cash bail.
Reel was reinstated as a Moorefield police officer while he was still in jail, and was placed on administrative leave until his trial was over.
'Put him back to work'
Reel's trial was held in the spring of 2008. On the witness stand, the officer said he'd made a mistake, but that the sex with Groves was consensual.
Reel testified that he pulled Groves over because he thought she might be drunk. He said that after she was free to go, she initiated the sexual contact.