West Virginia State Police whistleblower appears in court
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A whistleblower whose anonymous letters revealed serious allegations of wrongdoing within the West Virginia State Police was in court Wednesday morning.
State Police Cpl. Joseph Comer, 40, appeared in Ritchie County for a bond revocation, where Circuit Judge Timothy Sweeney denied a defense motion to reinstate bond.
It is the latest development in a continuing saga over serious allegations of wrongdoing against members of the West Virginia State Police.
Comer, in April, told WSAZ NewsChannel 3′s Curtis Johnson provided information for two anonymous letters. Those letters triggered a broad investigation into alleged wrongdoing at State Police, allegations that included falsified overtime and a hidden camera in the women’s locker room at the State Police Training Academy.
“Are you the author of that letter,” Johnson asked Comer in April.
“I provided information for the letters,” he said.
Comer entered the Ritchie County Courthouse on Wednesday in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs.
WSAZ’s cameras were not allowed in the courtroom.
Ritchie County Prosecutor Samuel Rogers used phone records Wednesday to argue Comer violated conditions of his bond by having contact with the alleged victim -- more than 30 hours of contact, taking place during more than 80 phone calls, he told the court.
The revocation stemming from charges of felony strangulation and misdemeanor domestic battery.
At issue on Wednesday morning, the phone calls and allegations the victim no longer wishes to pursue the charges.
The prosecutor arguing the victim’s reluctance surfaced after the phone calls began.
Comer’s attorney, Sidney Bell, defending his client during and after court.
“In fact, Joe was the most surprised person in the world when we found out she had decided to recant,” he told Johnson.
The judge restated rules on Wednesday saying no contact, with no exception of a recantation or a couple having kids together.
All along, the defense has maintained Comer’s innocence, claiming the underlying charges were retaliatory for his criticism of the State Police.
“I’m not surprised,” Bell said. “I’m very disappointed because I really like Joe Comer. I think he’s a good person, and I think he was wrongfully charged in this case, but the court doesn’t make that decision today. His guilt or innocence is not before the court today.”
Court documents state the alleged crimes happened in December, two months before the anonymous whistleblower letters were made public.
Late Tuesday, the State Police announced its intent to terminate Comer’s position with the agency. A State Police press release said that decision was made after lengthy investigations.
Criminal charges in Ritchie County are pending presentation to a grand jury. The prosecutor telling WSAZ that could occur as early as October.
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