Lawrence SmithThe West Virginia Record
June 4, 2013
CHARLESTON – The third of three suits alleging a former Logan County home confinement officer used women in his custody for his sexual gratification has been settled.
U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. in March ordered Rebecca Whitt’s civil rights lawsuit against the Logan County Commission and John Reed dismissed after the sides five days earlier announced they agreed to a settlement. The terms were not disclosed in court records.
However, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the West Virginia Record, the commission via its attorney Jennifer Tully provided a release showing its insurance carrier, National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, agreed to pay Whitt $25,000. The agreement stipulated that Whitt’s acceptance of the money was done with the understanding the commission, its Home Confinement Department and Reed admitted no liability or wrongdoing, and all parties “to the extent allowable by law” agreed not to publicly discuss it.
The settlement in Whitt’s case came five weeks after one was reached in Jeananne Gilco’s suit. Along with the same conditions, records show National Union paid Gilco $125,000.
Two years ago, Whitt, Gilco and a third woman, April Tomblin Chafin, alleged while under his supervision, Reed threatened to remove them from home confinement if they failed to meet his demands for sexual favors. In their suits, they unequivocally referred to Reed as a “sexual predator” who “use[s] his official designation as a Home Confinement Officer to extort sexual favors from participants in the program.”
In October, a jury found in Chafin’s favor and awarded her $275,000 in damages. However, in response to post-trial motions filed by both the commission and Reed, Copenhaver in January reduced the award to $150,000 to be paid exclusively by Reed after determining the commission adequately trained him, and he knowingly violated established policies and procedures.
Since then, both Chafin and Reed have filed separate appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit seeking a reversal of Copenhaver’s decision.
According to Brian Abraham, the county’s attorney, Reed was fired following settlement in Gilco’s case.
Also, Tully disclosed her firm – Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown and Poe – was paid $100,219.41 for defending the commission, its HCD and the Logan County Sheriff’s Department in all three cases while Billie Joe Streyle was paid $50,122.97 to defend Reed.
Records show all three women agreed to voluntarily dismiss LCSD from their suits last June.
— U. S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. Case numbers 11-32 (Gilco), 33 (Whitt) and 34 (Chafin)