PHILIPPI, W.Va. -- Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins denied allegations made in a federal lawsuit that he used his authority to rape a teenager and sexually assault other victims.
Hawkins released a prepared statement Tuesday in response to a lawsuit the Wheeling-based Harris Law Firm filed on behalf of a 19-year-old woman in U.S. District Court in Elkins.
The woman alleges that Hawkins handcuffed her and forced sexual acts on her during a job interview in August 2011, when she was 17.
Hawkins said the lawsuit would not affect his work at the Barbour County Sheriff's Department and it would continue to operate on a daily basis, according to the statement.
"First and foremost, I deny the allegations in the complaint," Hawkins said, according to the statement. "I am sorry my family and friends have to go through this yet again. No one knows until they live through this, the toll it takes on spouses, children and other relatives."
The woman had filed a domestic violence petition against Hawkins last year but later dropped it. She alleges that Hawkins used his authority to have her arrested on stolen-property charges that were later dismissed.
Four women and a 16-year-old girl also provided statements in the lawsuit alleging that Hawkins sexually assaulted them on separate occasions. The woman filed the lawsuit to stop Hawkins from victimizing other young women, Harris Law said in a statement.
The 19-year-old woman's attorneys collected text messages, emails and Facebook messages corroborating her claims, the law firm said.
"While many of those in power have turned their heads to the outrageous conduct of the sheriff, we intend to put a stop to it," the law firm said in the statement. "We look forward to our day in court."