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Helms v. Carpenter

Supreme Court of West Virginia

November 17, 2017

Larry Helms, Plaintiff Below, Petitioner
Joseph N. Carpenter, in his official capacity as Sheriff and Sheriff's Office of Marion County, Defendants Below, Respondents

         Marion County 13-C-277


         Petitioner Larry Helms, by counsel David A. Sims, appeals the October 14, 2016, order of the Circuit Court of Marion County that granted summary judgment to Respondent Joseph N. Carpenter, in his official capacity as sheriff, and Respondent Sheriff's Office of Marion County in petitioner's action for alleged civil rights violations; failure to implement appropriate policies, customs, and practices; false arrest; deprivation of liberty without due process; intentional infliction of emotional distress; outrage; battery; negligent violation of constitutional rights; and negligent training and supervision. Petitioner also appeals the October 22, 2016, order that denied his motion to amend his complaint so that he could sue Respondent-Sheriff in his individual capacity. Respondents, by counsel Peter G. Zurbuch, filed a response. Petitioner filed a reply.

         This Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately presented, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of the standard of review, the Court finds no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision affirming the circuit court's order is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.

         Petitioner obtains the water for his Marion County residence from a well located on the property of his neighbors, Rodney and Tammy Miller. Sometime prior to 9:52 a.m. on Thursday, September 1, 2011, petitioner went to the Miller property to determine why he was having a problem with his water supply. Petitioner claims that the piping at the well had been manipulated to prevent any water from flowing into petitioner's cistern/home. Petitioner states that he reconnected the pipe and then returned to his home.

         At 9:52 a.m. that same morning, the Marion County 911 Center received a call from Derrick Steele, who is petitioner's neighbor. Mr. Steele reported that petitioner was "chasing [Mr. Miller] down the road saying 'stop I'm going to beat your head in'" and that petitioner had made threats against Mr. Miller in the past. At 9:54 a.m., petitioner called the Marion County 911 Center regarding the altercation. Deputy Ryan Gannon was dispatched to the scene where he spoke with petitioner and took his statement. Petitioner alleged that (1) his water had tasted bad for two days and he did not have any water at his residence; (2) he went to the well on the Miller property where he found what he believed to be intentional damage to a pipe caused by Mr. Miller; (3) he waited for Mr. Miller to drive by so he could speak with him; (4) Mr. Miller drove by him at a high rate of speed and almost struck him; and (5) he (petitioner) had his rifle with him because Mr. Miller carries a gun. Deputy Gannon instructed petitioner not to have any further contact with Mr. Miller and to stay off the Miller property while the matter was being investigated.

         At 4:18 p.m. that same day, Mr. Miller called 911 and said petitioner had been on his property and was fighting with him, but had left and might be going to get a shotgun. Deputy Gannon and Deputy Jonathan Carter responded to the scene where they spoke with Derrick Steele, the neighbor who had called 911 earlier in the day. Mr. Steele reported that he saw petitioner yelling at Mr. Miller and attempting to open the side door of Mr. Miller's truck as it passed petitioner. Deputy Gannon also took statements from Mr. and Mrs. Miller. In his statement, Mr. Miller said the following:

At 9:30 I walked out to get in my truck and [petitioner] started yelling he was going to kick my ass. So I walked back in and called the counties [sic] and put my 4 year old daughter in the car passenger side back seat. I went down the drive way and [petitioner] was on the bridge grabbed my passenger mirror, and door handle. Screaming he was going to kill me. I cont. to go slowly and he then started chasing me down the road. . . . He attempted to get in my car. I fear for my daughter cause she was right at the passenger door.

         Mrs. Miller's statement provided that,

[a]t 4:05 p.m. [on Thursday, September 1, 2011, ] I was coming home up my driveway and [petitioner] came behind me on a 4-wheeler came up on my property yelling. I got something for u bitch. I went into my front yard yelling you are trust passing [sic] he continued walking up saying it was his water. I said this is my property you need to leave. He cursed me calling me a bitch, gutter slut, telling me I don't work, and that he was going to get me and this ain't over. I cont. to yell you are trust passing [sic] this is our property and he was telling me it wasn't. He then came at me got in my face nose to nose calling me a bitch and he would see me dead and he spit in my face. . . .

         Thereafter, Deputy Gannon prepared a criminal complaint against petitioner for misdemeanor trespassing on posted land in violation of W.Va. Code § 61-3B- 3(a), and for misdemeanor battery (spitting on Mrs. Miller) pursuant to W.Va. Code § 61-2-9(c). The Sheriff's Department presented the criminal complaint to Magistrate Missy Pride-Linger on Friday, September 2, 2011. That same day, Magistrate Linger found probable cause on both charges and issued a warrant for petitioner's arrest.

         Deputies Carter and Gannon arrived for work on Friday, September 2, 2011, at 3:00 p.m. At 4:36 p.m., the deputies were dispatched to petitioner's residence where they executed the arrest warrant. At 5:01 p.m., the deputies brought petitioner to the sheriff's office for processing. However, the deputies did not present petitioner to the magistrate for arraignment at that time because the magistrate court had closed for the day at 4:30 p.m. Petitioner was thereafter processed and, at 6:05 p.m., left the sheriff's office for the regional jail in Doddridge County. Petitioner arrived there at 6:52 p.m.

         The Marion County Magistrate Courts' regular operating hours are 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Additionally, per Rule 1(b) of the Administrative Rules for the Magistrate Courts of West Virginia, a magistrate is on call at other times, as follows:

On call. - One magistrate in each county, on a rotating basis, shall be on call at all times other than regular office hours. On-call duties shall extend, in criminal cases, to initial appearances; to taking bond for someone who is in jail; and to receiving and acting upon emergency search warrants, domestic violence matters, and juvenile abuse and neglect matters.
(1) Initial appearances and taking bond in criminal cases. - Within the time periods provided for below, the on-call magistrate shall contact the county or regional jail, whichever applies . . ., and shall inquire whether any person has been arrested in the county since the close of regular business hours or since the last contact with the jail, or whether anyone confined to the jail is able to post bond. If an arrest has been made or if a prisoner is able to post bond, the magistrate shall proceed immediately to the ...

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