WSAZ Investigates | Trooper claiming to be whistleblower speaks
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A West Virginia State Police trooper claiming to be the whistleblower, whose anonymous letter triggered a broad investigation into wrongdoing at the agency, spoke out Wednesday -- yet he stopped short of saying he actually wrote the letter.
“Are you the author of that letter?” asked WSAZ NewsChannel 3′s Curtis Johnson.
“I provided information for the letters,” Cpl. Joseph Comer replied.
“Did someone else write the letter on your behalf,” Johnson asked.
“I’ll just leave that, again, I had the information, and I provided the information,” Comer answered.
The anonymous allegations claim serious wrongdoing against members of the West Virginia State Police. It detailed claims of a “ghost account” used for purchases, falsified overtime and a hidden camera system placed in the women’s locker room at the State Police Training Academy.
Comer says his reason for giving the information in the letter was misconduct that he claims was getting worse.
“It goes against everything I believe as a trooper and the way in which I was raised,” he said Wednesday. “And beyond belief it goes against our oath of office. Our baseline is case law, state law, federal law, policy 81 CSR, which is our administrative rules -- we’re not above that. We were not better than anybody, but we are held to a higher standard, and we should hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
The head of the State Police -- Jan Cahill -- chose to resign after the letters surfaced.
Gov. Jim Justice then appointed the agency’s new interim Superintendent Jack Chambers.
Comer says he has watched from afar, because about a week after the letter was made public in February, he was arrested on charges stemming from two alleged domestic violence incidents.
Court documents state the crimes Comer is accused of committing both happened two months earlier -- in December.
The documents detail two separate incidents. The first alleges that 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 exchange.
Comer shares his youngest child with the alleged victim, and WSAZ has confirmed she is also a member of the West Virginia State Police.
Johnson asked Comer about the allegations Wednesday.
“Did you hit the victim with a sippy cup?” Johnson asked.
“No,” Comer replied.
“Did you strangle the victim?” Johnson asked.
“No,” he answered.
“At anytime, did you place your hands around her neck?” Johnson asked.
“No,” Comer replied.
“If you didn’t do those things, how would the State Police then bring charges against you?” Johnson asked.
“With all due respect, I’m just going to stay away from that part of it,” he answered.
Comer remains placed on administrative leave with pay.
His attorney, David Moye, says he sent a letter last week to the new head of State Police asking why those named in the letter are still on the job.
Johnson asked Governor Justice about that concern Wednesday.
“How do you respond to that?” Johnson asked. “Is there an active investigation or active review to of Comer’s arrest considering he says it was retaliatory? And has anyone else been placed on leave as result of his letter?”
“The bottom line of the whole thing is, Curtis, we want to be right,” Justice replied. “We don’t want to be fast. We want to be right. And from the standpoint, you know, of debating something back and forth with the Comer individual in the media and everything -- I’m not going to do that. I mean, that’s just silly.”
“I am absolute confident that Jack Chambers and his people will get to the bottom of it, and if they don’t, we’ll blow another bubble, but we’ll get to the bottom of it,” Justice added.
Comer says he supports Colonel Chambers and the governor, but hopes action comes sooner than later.
“We elected the man to do a job, and he’s got a job to do, whether we agree or disagree with it or not,” Comer told Johnson. “So, you know, I support Governor Justice as far as, you know, where he’s at and what he’s looking at, what he sees. As far as where I’m sitting at, this isn’t about personal feelings or ill intent. This is about, again, right and wrong, and everything that I have been trying to stand for.”
Comer faces charges of felony strangulation and misdemeanor domestic battery. A judge found probable cause on the strangulation charge and sent the case to the grand jury.
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