CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A former Montgomery police officer accused of beating a black man in September has been charged with two federal civil rights violations.
In an information filed Tuesday in federal court, Matthew Leavitt is accused of beating Twan Reynolds with a "slap jack" and illegally charging his wife, Lauren Reynolds, with a DUI.
An information generally indicates a defendant is cooperating with the case and can't be filed without a defendant's permission.
"We're obviously pleased," said Reynolds' lawyer, Mike Clifford. "And it would appear that because it was done by information that some sort of plea agreement is forthcoming."
Twan and Lauren Reynolds say Leavitt and fellow officer Shawn Hutchinson hit Twan Reynolds in the head with the slap jack (a small club), kicked him in the back and sprayed him in the eyes with pepper spray at close range following a traffic stop at the 7-Eleven in Montgomery on Sept. 26.
They are suing the two officers and the town.
They also say Leavitt repeatedly used a racial epithet against Twan Reynolds. Lauren Reynolds accused Leavitt of licking her on the neck during an interrogation and saying, "Little whore, you like it like that."
'I think this is a confirmation'
Clifford said that he's grateful Charles Miller, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, took up the case. But he's disappointed that the prosecuting attorneys in Fayette and Kanawha Counties did not touch the case. (Montgomery is on the Kanawha-Fayette border.)
Clifford said he does not believe Miller waved off either county to get the federal indictment.
"The information that I received is that did not occur, at least as of the time of the grand jury testimony," he said. "What we predominantly were interested in was a confirmation that one, what the Montgomery officers did was wrong and two, that what Twan and Lauren did was not a criminal act or in any way improper. I think this is a confirmation of that."
In December, Montgomery Police Lt. J.D. Burrow told the Gazette that Leavitt and Hutchinson threatened to arrest him when he tried to stop them from attacking Reynolds.
"These guys were on their own. They felt like they could do what they want," Burrow said at the time. "It seemed like they always had that little leeway to do what they wanted to, to me."
Burrow said he was on patrol when he saw Leavitt and Hutchinson driving to the 7-Eleven with lights flashing, according to a statement Burrow provided to the city of Montgomery. (The statement was obtained by the Gazette-Mail through Clifford.)
Burrow followed the officers to the store, where they had Lauren and Twan Reynolds pulled over. Burrow says he overheard Lauren repeatedly tell Leavitt and Hutchinson that she hadn't been drinking.
When Leavitt and Hutchinson walked around to Twan Reynolds' side of the car, Burrow told them he would handle Reynolds, that the two men were neighbors, according to the statement made by Burrow.