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UPDATE: No Charges for Officer Accused of Using Excessive Force

By: Todd Baucher, Hayley Skene Email
By: Todd Baucher, Hayley Skene Email
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UPDATE 7/17/2014 12:40 PM

A Parkersburg Police Officer accused of using excessive force will not be criminally charged.

It was announced Thursday a special Wood County grand jury decided against indicting Sergeant Jay Hart.

John Michael Sadler said Sergeant Hart choked and punched him last August.

At the time, Sadler was being processed on a drunk driving charge.

The city's insurance company settled the case against Hart for $80,000.

Police Chief Joe Martin says video of Hart striking Sadler was the main reason the insurance company decided to settle the case.


UPDATE 6/17/2014 4:30 PM

A suit involving a Parkersburg Police Officer accused of using excessive force is settled.

But Sergeant Jay Hart is not off the hook just yet.

Hart was accused last year by John Michael Sadler of being choked and punched by Sergeant Hart last August.

At the time, Sadler was being processed on a drunk driving charge.

Police Chief Joe Martin says the City of Parkersburg, Martin, and Mayor Bob Newell were dismissed as defendants in the case.

The city's insurance company then settled the case against Hart for $80,000.

Chief Martin says, however, that Hart still faces possible disciplinary action from the incident.

In the meantime, he remains on desk duty.

"The statute allows them to have a hearing board of their peers. It's a three-person panel of officers who are on the department. From that point, it moves to civil service, and it's a binding deal, depending on which way they decide or rule. The losing side can appeal to the circuit court, and then up to the supreme court," says Chief Martin.

Chief Martin maintains neither he or the city did anything wrong, adding the actions were those of Sergeant Hart.

He says video of Hart striking Sadler was the main reason the insurance company decided to settle the case.

The chief says the officers involved in this, and a suit filed last week, are not representative of all of the officers who work for the police department.

The attorney for John Michael Sadler, Paul Morrison, declined to comment except to say all of the parties were satisfied with the settlement.


UPDATE 11/21/2013 5:15 PM

Lawsuit filed.

John Michael Sadler says he was choked and punched while handcuffed and being processed by Patrolman Jay Hart back in August.

Sadler was arrested on a drunk driving charge.

Sadler filed his lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Charleston, alleging excessive force was used against him, violating his rights.

The lawsuit names Hart, the City of Parkersburg, its police chief and mayor and two other police officers as defendants.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.


Update: 10/17/2013 6:40 P.M.

Parkersburg's mayor says discipline in the police department has improved under his current police chief.

The mayor says there have been fewer such incidents under Police Chief Joe Martin, than there were before Martin became chief in late 2009.

"Keep in mind, in the 18 months before he took over, there were 18 claims we paid out," Mayor Bob Newell said Thursday afternoon. "He had his work cut out for him when he came in. And this being his second in four years, he's done a very good job. With 45,000 calls in a year, we're going to have our issues from time to time. The perception should be that things are getting taken care of."

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UPDATE 10/17/2013 4:30 PM

Words were exchanged then the video captures what happened next.

Being physical can be part of the job but the prosecutors office has the state police investigating if a Parkersburg Police Officer went too far.

There are lots of opinions about the video.

The suspect remains in jail and the officer on desk duty.

The attorney representing Patrolman Jay Hart and the City of Parkersburg declined to comment on the allegations for the time being.

But Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin told us Wednesday night that suspect John Michael Sadler, who was picked up August 13 for drunk driving, was uncooperative with police.

He adds the public needs to understand the problems police officers face in similar situations.

"I know what they go through, and how much restraint is necessary to do the job," says Chief Martin. "The fear of lawsuits is always going to be part of the job. Not that I agree with that, but we understand and accept that level of risk."

Chief Martin says he's less concerned about cases like the Sadler incident than he was when he became police chief nearly four years ago, when there were a number of cases where officers were accused of using excessive force.
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UPDATE 10/17/2013 9:20 AM

This is the second time John Michael Sadler and police officer Jay Hart have met. The first time was in 2008, in a confrontation where Sadler threatened to kill both himself and police officers, before Hart shot and wounded Sadler.

Sadler was required not to have further contact with officer Hart after the incident. That may have been what Sadler was referring to in a video of the incident. It appears to show officer Hart grabbing Sadler by the neck, taking him to the floor, before being placed on a bench, whereupon officer Hart appears to grab him by the neck a second time.

Paul Morrison is Sadler's attorney.

"He was handcuffed and defenseless, and he made no movement toward the police at all," says Morrison, of the Windom Law Offices in Harrisville. "He did not try to kick or head butt them; at least that's not apparent on the video."

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin's response: "It appears Mr. Sadler was not cooperative, or complying with the officers' commands in the process."

City police are conducting an internal investigation. West Virginia state police also have been asked to investigate the incident.

"And that's why I say, in the public's eye, it truly looks worse than it is," Chief Martin says. "Even though he's handcuffed, the officers are required to use some type of force. But that's what the investigation, I hope, is going to reveal."

So far, officer Hart, who has been reassigned to desk duty, is the only officer implicated in the investigation.

"Not only do Mr. Hart's actions bother me," Morrison says, "but the other officers stood around and did nothing while this occurred."

Morrison plans to file a civil rights action in U.S. District Court.

The mayor's office says Hart has no previous complaints involving abuse.

Hart has a lawyer, but we're told no statement will be made for now.

Sadler's lawyer says the Wood County Prosecutor's office asked for the state police to investigate.

Those findings will go before a grand jury.
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Parkersburg Police confirm to WTAP News an officer is on administrative duty following an allegation of abuse against a suspect.

Chief Joe Martin confirmed the investigation but did not name the officer involved.

The suspect's lawyer, Paul Morrison, tells WTAP News the incident was captured on video.

Chief Martin confirms there is a video but what's not determined is what happened leading up to what's shown on camera.


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