CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — The attorney for a West Virginia State Police Trooper who is facing criminal charges says he’s mailed notice to the WVSP and the West Virginia Attorney General of plans to sue.
Attorney David Moye told 13 News Monday afternoon his client, Trooper Joseph Comer will sue for, among other things, defamation of character, retaliatory conduct, and false arrest.
State law requires 30 days’ notice, Moye said.
According to Moye Trooper Comer is on paid administrative leave from his job within the department.
Friday it was announced by West Virginia State Police that Comer, a current member of the West Virginia State Police turned himself in connection to charges of domestic battery and felony strangulation.
The alleged strangulation and domestic violence incidents listed in the criminal complaints happened during a child custody exchange in the parking lot of a hotel in Ritchie County, West Virginia.
According to the criminal complaints in the case the incidents happened on Monday, December 5, and Monday, December 12. According to the court paperwork the charges were not filed until February 23.
The charges were filed on the eve, Moye says, of a scheduled grievance hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. The Feb. 24 hearing was to address Trooper Comer’s demotion from Sergeant to corporal and three days of unpaid leave levied against him following another investigation. Moye says that Comer has since withdrawn his grievance.
The demotion, Attorney Moye says, came after Trooper Comer brought to his superior’s attention issues of misconduct within the top ranks of his department, Moye said.
The criminal charges also come as an investigation continues into the state’s law enforcement agency by the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security. That investigation was prompted by an anonymous letter that alleges widespread misconduct inside the organization. It was sent to the West Virginia Attorney General and several other state lawmakers.
Attorney Moye will not say if his client is the author of the anonymous letter that prompted the investigation. Moye does say the charges are in retaliation for the concerns Comer brought to his superior a few years ago.
“Right now there is a cloud hanging over the West Virginia State Police but it has nothing to do with the rank and file. That is what my client is most concerned about. The troopers are doing their jobs and it is the upper brass that is doing this,” Moye said.
A hearing on the felony strangulation charge and the misdemeanor domestic abuse charge will happen on March 8 at 10 am in Ritchie County.
13 News has reached out to the West Virginia State Police for comment about the charges filed against Comer. We have not heard back but will keep trying.
Last week, when asked about the investigation into the anonymous allegations levied against the West Virginia State Police, the Justice Administration declined to answer direct questions but released a statement from the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeff Sandy.
“Several months ago, the Governor’s Office received an anonymous letter which contained serious allegations made against members of the West Virginia State Police. At that time, the Governor requested that a full administrative investigation be immediately initiated to look into the allegations. Over the past few months, extensive work has been done by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General and other retired law enforcement officers employed by the Dept. of Homeland Security. The investigation remains active and ongoing.
“I join the Governor in expressing continued confidence in the men and women of the West Virginia State Police. The actions of a few should not tarnish the reputation of the organization. I look forward to the investigation’s conclusion in the coming months.”
Governor Jim Justice said during a news conference last Tuesday that he could not comment on the specifics of an investigation into WVSP, but he said that he fully supports “cutting out bad actors.” He added that the public should remember that working in law enforcement is a “tough job.”