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WV county ponders replacing disgraced sheriff

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CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Jefferson County Commission members are pondering how to permanently replace a sheriff who resigned in disgrace and pleaded guilty earlier this week to his role in the beating of a bank robbery suspect.

Commissioner Walt Pellish said Thursday the scandal involving former Sheriff Robert Shirley has left the Eastern Panhandle county with a "black eye."

Jesse Jones has been named interim manager of the sheriff's department until the commission finds someone to fill the post.

Shirley pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg on Monday to deprivation of rights under the color of law. A second count of falsifying records was dismissed.

He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced at a later date. He will remain on home detention until then and must surrender his firearms.

U. S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld II said the beating was captured on surveillance video from police cruisers involved in the December 2010 chase of Mark Daniel Haines, who is now serving a 19-year sentence for bank robbery.

A civil lawsuit over Haines' injuries is set for trial this fall.

The Journal of Martinsburg says the county commission must decide between keeping Jones as manager until the next general election or holding a separate special election.

A county prosecutor said state code offers conflicting guidance: One section says the commission should appoint a successor, but another says that if the vacancy is for more than one year of the unexpired term, there should be an election.

Shirley was re-elected to a new four-year term in November, even as he faced the beating allegations.

Commissioner Patricia Noland questioned the costs associated with a special election, after which the winner would still have to run in the next general election.

"Is it worth $100,000 to have someone in office and then be out campaigning next year?" she asked.

Jones, a Berkeley County resident, said he's unable to and would not seek the job full-time.

 

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