Arrested WVSP trooper’s attorney speaks out

The attorney of a West Virginia State Police trooper arrested on domestic-related charges sat down in an interview with WSAZ.
Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 7:26 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The attorney for a state trooper recently charged with strangulation says his client is innocent and the charges are pure retaliation from West Virginia State Police.

“It’s sort of like a movie,” said attorney David Moye, who represents State Police Cpl. Joseph Comer.

Comer was arrested Friday on charges of felony strangulation and misdemeanor domestic battery. His arrest comes about about one week after an anonymous letter detailing serious allegations of wrongdoing by West Virginia State Police.

WSAZ obtained the letter, which mentions accusations of a hidden camera system placed in the women’s locker room at the State Police training academy, a a “ghost account” used for purchases, falsified overtime and a trooper not reporting three crashes in a department-issued vehicle. Some accusations date back to 2018.

Moye told WSAZ Investigative/Political Reporter Curtis Johnson that he believes the agency thinks Comer is the author of the anonymous letter and that’s the reason for his arrest.

“So you believe that these charges were in direct retaliation for the believed role they thought he had in writing the letter?” Johnson asked.

“Absolutely, I believe that,” he replied. “I think it’s very evident that, that’s what happened.”

Moye would neither confirm nor deny if his client wrote the anonymous letter, yet, he said some of its allegations are consistent with concerns Comer had reported to State Police management.

But Moye says nothing was done about the issues, instead it back fired with Comer being suspended without pay and demoted in rank short after.

“What was the reason for the demotion?” Johnson asked.

“What I consider kind of a trumped-up, out-of-hand complaint that they didn’t even list who the complainant was,” Moye replied. “They said it was internal.”

That’s when Comer contacted Moye, about a year ago, for help filing a grievance.

Testimony in a hearing related to that grievance was set for last Friday morning, just hours after State Police obtained warrants for Comer’s arrest Thursday night. Comer didn’t attend the hearing and instead turned himself in Friday afternoon.

“Felony strangulation, misdemeanor domestic battery -- why did those charges come about?” Johnson asked.

“I believe they came as a smoke screen trying to prohibit him from testifying when we had our hearing on Friday morning,” Moye replied.

WSAZ obtained the criminal complaints from Comer’s arrest last Friday, which state the crimes Comer is accused of committing both happened two months prior in early December.

The documents detail two separate incidents. The first alleges Comer grabbed a woman around the neck during a child exchange. In the second incident, a week later, Comer is accused of hitting the woman in the head with a sippy cup during another child exchange.

WSAZ has confirmed the woman referenced in the documents -- is also a member of the West Virginia State Police.

“The whole thing is compromised when you have months that go by and you say, ‘Well, she didn’t report it,’ and there’s no evidence other than what she says,” Moye said.

So Johnson went to State Police headquarters Monday asking for the police report and photographs of the victim’s injuries. Court records state she suffered bruising and a black eye.

State Police staff told Johnson the photos would be ready Tuesday, but when he he reached out by email Tuesday morning, he received a response that states in part, “We unable to provide you with photographs or the report at this time due to the matter being a pending investigation.”

So, Johnson followed up with questions including, with regard to the reports and photos now being withheld, “What changed?” and “Were any incident reports/victim photographs taken at the time of the incidents?”

Johnson also asked the agency to specify the date when State Police was made aware of the stated allegations and the date when the initial State Police report was filed.

The reporter received no response to those questions, so he called State Police Col. Jan Cahill. The colonel cited the ongoing investigation, saying it was premature to comment.

As for the allegations against Comer, his attorney says his client is innocent.

“I think they’re absolutely false,” he told Johnson. “I’ve already gotten word that the people who worked around her never saw any type of bruising, never heard her say that he did anything.”

Moye said his client is on administrative leave. He also said they have withdrawn the underlying grievance, saying he has now put the state on notice of a forthcoming lawsuit against State Police.

Earlier this month, the Governor’s office told us the anonymous letter had triggered an investigation by Homeland Security’s inspector general.

For original coverage:

WVSP trooper faces domestic-related charges