PARKERSBURG - A former Wood County sheriff's deputy was acquitted Tuesday in federal court of charges he violated the civil rights of a suspect.
On Tuesday, a federal jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia ruled in favor of former Wood County deputy Jim Asbury, finding that he did not violate the civil rights of Brian Sawyer.
Sawyer, who had been arrested on Oct. 29, 2009, for domestic violence, public intoxication and assault charges on a law enforcement officer, had originally sued the Wood County Commission as well as Jim Asbury individually and in his capacity as a Wood County sheriff's deputy, claiming Asbury violated his civil rights when he allegedly choked him and slammed him into a wall at his house.
Sawyer also claimed the sheriff's department was responsible for Asbury's acts, but U.S. District Court Judge Joseph R. Goodwin dismissed both claims, saying there was no evidence to support them.
Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy said Thursday the verdict validated the department's belief that Asbury was not guilty.
"From the beginning we said we would cooperate with any law enforcement agency in the investigation," he said.
Former Wood County sheriff's deputy Jim Asbury was acquitted in federal court of violating the civil rights of a suspect.
In 2010, Wood County resident Brian Sawyer filed a lawsuit against Asbury, claiming his rights under the Fourth and 14th amendments were violated when Asbury allegedly choked him and slammed him into a wall.
Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy said the department cooperated fully in the investigation and the department believed Asbury did not violate Sawyer's rights.
In 2010, a Wood County grand jury voted to not indict Asbury on charges related to the incident.
Sandy said the verdict from the federal court reflects the decision from a Wood County grand jury that voted to not indict Asbury on charges from the incident where Sawyer claimed he was a victim of excessive force by a law enforcement officer.
The allegations against Asbury first arose from former Wood County sheriff's deputy David Westfall, who claimed he was unfairly treated as the result of a whistleblower lawsuit because he told the FBI Asbury had committed civil rights violations in the incident with Sawyer.
Westfall dropped his whistleblower lawsuit and the FBI found no civil rights violations.
Sawyer had been arrested in October 2009 on domestic assault, public intoxication and other charges. A video from surveillance cameras at the Wood County Holding Center shows Sawyer seated and gesturing at Asbury before being choked and wrestled to the ground.
Asbury resigned from the department in June.
According to the federal complaint, the allegations against the Wood County Sheriff's Office involve one count of negligence, one count of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and one count of excessive force in violation of the 14th Amendment.
According to the complaint, Asbury used excessive force on Oct. 29, 2009, when he arrested Sawyer at his residence and Sawyer claimed Asbury rammed the defendant's head into the door of his residence, despite showing no signs of resistance.
At the Wood County Holding Center, Asbury allegedly put Sawyer in a chokehold and punched him in the face several times "fracturing his nose and giving him blackened eyes and other contusions and abrasions, and also causing him severe pain," according to the complaint.