Civil suits filed by attorney for Woodruffs

Rachel Baldwin rbaldwin@civitasmedia.com

October 9, 2013

CHARLESTON - Civil suits against several defendants who allegedly played a part in a scheme concocted by former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury that deprived the husband of his former secretary of his civil rights were filed on September 30, and were served on those named during the course of the past week.

Named in a lawsuit filed by Robert and Kim Woodruff are defendants Michael Thornsbury, individually and in his official capacity; Jarrod Fletcher, individually and in his official capacity; Steven D. Canterbury, in his official capacity as Administrator of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals; WVSP Trooper Brandon Moore, individually and in his official capacity; Colonel Jay Smithers in his official capacity as Commander of the WVSP, Jeffrey Cline; Police Officer Nathan Glanden, individually and in his official capacity; the City of Gilbert and the County Commission of Mingo County.

Robert Woodruff, represented by Attorney Michael Callaghan, has filed suit based on claims that his civil rights were violated, malicious prosecution, false arrest and wrongful imprisonment.

The suit claims that Kimberly Woodruff, the wife of Robert, endured sexual harassment during the time that she was employed as an administrative assistant to the defendant Thornsbury, which included various attempts to coerce her into a sexual relationship with him, which she claims to have refused.

Thornsbury allegedly informed Kimberly that if her husband were ever arrested that he would be forced to terminate her from employment. In spite of his attempts to coerce her into a sexual relationship, she continued to deny his requests.

During this time frame, WVSP Trooper Brandon Moore was assigned to Mingo County after completing the training to become an officer. Shorty after he arrived in the county, Thornsbury is accused of purposely cultivating a relationship with the trooper to influence his performance of his official duties and suborn him to abuse authority as a member of the WVSP.

Defendant Jarrod Fletcher was Mingo County’s Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and a close friend of defendant Thornsbury. In or about early 2008, Fletcher and Thornsbury became partners in a business called Williamson Renaissance Inc., which was created to acquire and manage commercial real estate in and around the City of Williamson. Fletcher, Thornsbury, along with a third partner, jointly borrowed approximately $1.6 million from the Community Trust Bank, Inc., and approximately $200,000 from the bank of Mingo. Fletcher and Thornsbury were also joint owners of a wine shop located on 2nd Avenue in Williamson. The strong and close relationship between Fletcher and the former judge was not widely known by the general public until mid 2009, according to the suit.

Defendant Jeffrey Cline, of Gilbert, who was a former candidate for sheriff and also served on the Deputies Civil Service Board, was a close, personal friend of Thornsbury. Due to the plaintiff’s wife’s continued refusal to have a sexual relationship with Thornsbury, the former judge devised a scheme or plan to have Robert Woodruff incarcerated.

Thornsbury is accused of instructing Fletcher to relay information to Trooper Moore and other members of the WVSP with whom Fletcher was acquainted that plaintiff Robert Woodruff concealed cocaine under his pickup truck, and Fletcher is said to have carried out the request. The former judge is said to have believed that if the information regarding the drug allegations came from Fletcher, who was at that time serving as Mingo County Homeland Security, it would be more credible and carry more weight. During the course of these events, Fletcher and Moore knew of Thornsbury’s obsession with Kimberly.

Upon information and belief, and subject to confirmation during discovery, Thornsbury summoned Cline to his judicial chambers and instructed him to attach a metal box filled with cocaine under Woodruff’s truck. Thornsbury allegedly told Cline that if Robert was out of the way, Kimberly would be forced to have a romantic relationship with him out of financial necessity. Cline agreed to plant the drugs but never executed the above-described plan.

From 2006 and 2008, Woodruff salvaged scrap mine-roof drill bits from his employer, H. Coal Co., and transported them to another facility for refurbishing. He had the full permission of his employer to collect the scrap bits and to dispose of them for his own profit. Thornsbury is accused of informing Moore that plaintiff Woodruff was stealing scrap mine bits from the coal company and instructed him to pursue criminal charges against plaintiff Woodruff. Moore opened a criminal investigation, but soon learned that the plaintiff had permission to salvage the scrap and further learned it had little or no value. Moore informed Thornsbury of his findings, but the former judge insisted that Woodruff be charged with grand larceny.

Woodruff was arrested by Moore on three felony counts alleging that he committed grand larceny, received and transferred stolen goods and obtaining money under false pretenses. The complaint stated that the bits were removed from mining property without permission in order to make a profit. The felony counts were a direct product of Thornsbury and Fletcher’s conspiracy to get Woodruff out of the picture so that Thornsbury could pursue a sexual relationship with Kimberly while he was incarcerated. The charges were dismissed against the plaintiff as a result of the arrest warrant being named as entirely frivolous, and there not being any factual support for the charges.

From Dec. 2, 2008 through Jan. 9, 2009, Robert was on bond under court supervision and suffered embarrassment and humiliation of being publicly accused of a crime he didn’t commit. In spite of the complain being dismissed, Moore, at further direction of Thornsbury, filed an additional charge against the plaintiff on Jan. 14, 2009, for engaging in the same fraudulent scheme and it was not dismissed until Aug. 21, 2013, which caused additional stress and anxiety for the plaintiff, knowing he could be arrested on the charge at any time.

In Jan. of 2009, Thornsbury, acting in his official capacity as Circuit Judge, appointed his business partner and co-conspirator Fletcher as the foreman of the grand jury, in direct and knowing contravention of WV Code 52-1-8, which prohibits an officeholder from serving on a state grand jury. Thornsbury knew that Fletcher could control the grand jury and improperly issue subpoenas to oppress Woodruff and procure a felony indictment against him. Fletcher was allegedly instructed to use his position as foreman to carry out his plan by calling Moore to testify against the plaintiff before the grand jury, in the absence of the prosecuting attorney. Fletcher did in fact cause the issuance of numerous subpoenas to business entities, including Woodruff’s employer, to obtain financial documents regarding the plaintiff.

On Jan. 22, 2009, Moore testifies before the grand jury that drug informants had made him aware of the plaintiff’s thefts from his employer, when the trooper knew that Woodruff had permission to take the scrap bits. Ultimately, the grand jury refused to return an indictment against the plaintiff.

On Jan. 25, 2012, the plaintiff was involved in an altercation at a convenient store in Gilbert. a police report authored by a Gilbert police officer indicated that two men started an altercation with Woodruff, and that one of the men started an altercation with plaintiff Woodruff, and that one of the men pulled a gun on him. Three eye witnesses reported to the police the the other two men were the aggressors and Woodruff was the victim. Police reviewed a video recording from the store’s security system and confirmed the eye witness reports. Approximately a month after the altercation, Thornsbury instructed Officer Nathan Glanden of the Gilbert Police Department, who was not involved in the primary investigation, to obtain an arrest warrant against Woodruff on charges of assault and battery, which he did.

Thornsbury then told his close friend Cline to go to the Mingo County Prosecutor and tell him to offer a plea agreement to Woodruff of six months behind bars. This plea was dramatically out of line with typical pleas offered to first time offenders, normally a nominal fine and court costs. The prosecutors office offered the plea which the plaintiff and his attorney refused, and stated they would go to trial. The charges were eventually dismissed on Oct. 31, 2012, just a few days before the scheduled trial was set to begin. From Feb. 23 through Oct. 31, 2012, the plaintiff was again on bond and suffered greatly.

The defendants are accused of deprivation of civil rights, conspiring to effect a malicious prosecution, gross negligence, grossly negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment.

The plaintiff is suing for compensatory damages in an amount shown by the evidence to compensate for economic losses, emotional distress, humiliation, disparagement in his trade or business and lost wages. The plaintiff does not seek relief from any agency of the State of WV that exceeds the limit of an applicable insurance policy, but plaintiff does seek damages in excess of the state insurance limit against the defendants individually.