WSAZ Investigates | Hidden Camera Spurs Potential Lawsuits

A hidden camera at the West Virginia State Police Training Academy has spurred potential lawsuits.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 7:15 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - At least eight women are preparing to file suit against the state of West Virginia, their claims related to a hidden camera system in a women’s locker room at the State Police Academy in Institute.

The hidden camera is just one in a series of allegations of wrongdoing against high-ranking members of the West Virginia State Police.

The allegations are made in two anonymous letters -- both obtained by WSAZ and sent to state officials last month.

One letter stated a trooper, who has since died, constructed the hidden camera system and the recordings from the system were later found on a thumb drive and destroyed.

Teresa Toriseva, an attorney who works out of Wheeling, West Virginia, told WSAZ NewsChannel 3′s Curtis Johnson that she represents two retired state troopers and one civilian family member, all of whom claim they used the locker room and claim their right to privacy was violated.

“How were they affected by this?” Johnson asked Toriseva.

“Their number one fear is retaliation,” she replied. “They are in fear of who taped me doing what in the private confines of a woman’s locker room. They’re in fear for their bodily safety. They’re in fear for -- are there pictures of me on the Internet nude?”

Toriseva and her three clients notified the state about their intent to file suit. Their notice is one of three separate notices received in recent weeks by the state Attorney General’s office. In all, at least eight women are preparing to go to court.

Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Jim Justice and his interim head of the State Police, Col. Jack Chambers, issued an apology last week, “to any female who was victimized by the hidden camera in the State Police Training Academy locker room.”

Johnson asked the governor about that apology Tuesday.

“Do you guys have reason now to believe that there are multiple women on that camera?” Johnson asked.

“I don’t have any reason to believe that, except this is just what I think,” Justice replied. “You know, just how much sense does it really make to think that there was a hidden camera? There was only one thumb drive, there was only one individual.

“You know, why in the world, wouldn’t we wonder who all else could have been involved? Who all else could have been filmed? Who all else could have been invaded? I mean, to me, it’s the ultimate insult to women,” he added.

WSAZ has been asking that question for weeks.

The governor’s response has been much different than that of his former head of the State Police, Jan Cahill, in early March.

“When were you made aware of it?” Johnson asked March 10.

“Late 2020,” Cahill replied.

“Was everybody that was in those videos notified?” Johnson asked.

“There was only one person,” Cahill replied. “That letter that you’re holding, I think said there was tens of hours of footage and 10 people. We were never told, but just one person.”

Cahill held firm on that answer when Johnson asked again after his resignation.

“You maintain, only one person was on that video?” Johnson asked March 21. “Is that accurate?”

“That is accurate,” Cahill replied. “It’s what was reported to me in late 2020. One person. One event. One, I guess you would call it, thumb file.”

“And to somebody who would say there’s multiple women on that video, what would you say,” Johnson followed.

“I would say, that’s not what was ever reported to me,” Cahill replied.

But Toriseva says her clients have questions, and so does the governor.

“What’s your reaction to those lawsuits?” Johnson asked Justice.

“Can’t blame them,” Justice replied Tuesday. “That’s my reaction wholeheartedly. I mean, you know, if I had been a female, and I had been in there, and I knew now that there was a hidden camera, I’d be mad, I’d really question what was going on. Can’t blame them.”

“Can you tell us anything the timeline for when that camera was set up?” Johnson asked.

“I can tell you what I think I know,” Justice said. “I think I know 2015. I am not -- none of us, I guess will ever really know, but an investigation is warranted and maybe we’ll get more information from that.”

“Do you know if the camera was removed when the person died?” Johnson asked.

“I don’t know that,” Justice replied. “I don’t know that.”

Investigating the hidden camera system now falls to Cahill’s replacement, Chambers. He was second-highest ranking trooper at State Police when he retired in late 2015, then taking a role with the State Capitol Police just days into 2016.

But with the alleged perpetrator deceased and the thumb drive destroyed, Johnson wanted to know what the people of West Virginia could expect.

“What can be done to make progress in that investigation?” Johnson asked. “What should people look for as possibilities of what you can do at this point?”

“Again, if they’re saying ‘16, they’re backing up in to ‘15, I’m not sure they can, anybody can even show when the camera was in there,” Chambers replied during a March 22 press conference. “I mean, Lord, I had no knowledge of it in ‘15 when I was there and I was at the Academy every morning working out at six o’clock.”

“It’s eight years now, about seven or eight years now, so the only thing you can do is look into it and refer it, if you will, if it’s still in the statute of limitations or if it’s not,” Chambers added.

Justice said Tuesday that disciplinary action is still possible against who destroyed the hard drive.

Toriseva hopes a lawsuit will bring definitive answers.

“What is your hope for your clients in this?” Johnson asked Toriseva.

“That we create a better environment for female police officers who have to train at the West Virginia State Police Academy,” she replied. “Two, that this is exposed fully and that everybody accountable answer for that.”

In West Virginia, its a requirement to notify the state 30 days ahead of filing a lawsuit against any state agency. Once that time has passed, the actual lawsuits can be filed.