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Elderly pair file $5M suit against SW Va. officers

Wes Bunch • Jul 26, 2013 at 12:06 AM

ABINGDON — A $5 million federal lawsuit filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Abingdon accuses two Southwest Virginia law enforcement officers of shoving, punching and kicking an elderly Lee County man and woman during an incident that allegedly occurred last year.

Pennington Gap Police Officer Nathan A. Kennedy and Virginia State Police Trooper Wesley Williams are both named in the lawsuit, which was filed July 2 by Betty Slagle Minton, 78, and Emory Arnold Robinette, 74, of Pennington Gap.

Minton and Robinette are seeking compensatory and punitive damages of $2.5 million each for acts of negligent conduct, grossly negligent conduct, and reckless conduct in which the two officers allegedly took part. The lawsuit requests that the case go before a jury.

Pennington Gap Town Attorney Gregory M. Kallen directed questions on the matter to attorney Bradley Stallard, who is representing Kennedy.

Stallard did not immediately return calls seeking comment, while a Virginia State Police spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit due to its pending nature.

Kingsport attorney Jim Humphreys also declined to comment on the case, saying his clients wished to let the filing speak for itself at this time.

The lawsuit alleges that the two officers came to Robinette’s residence while responding to a report of a disturbance at a neighbor’s house on the night of Aug. 12, 2012.

According to the filing, Minton and Robinette were not aware Kennedy and Williams were already on his property when they went to the back door of the home “to see what was going on.”

When Minton opened the door, Kennedy allegedly grabbed her walking cane “directly and without warning” while Williams reached over her to grab Robinette and pull him out the door.

Minton was allegedly knocked down and struck by Kennedy, who the lawsuit says raised the walking cane he took in order to strike Robinette.

Minton reportedly yelled “Don’t hit him in the head. He’s had brain surgery,” which caused Kennedy to lower the cane and not strike Robinette with it.

The lawsuit alleges the officers still “shoved, kicked, and hit both plaintiffs brutally and mercilessly” despite Minton’s plea.

The filing goes on to say that Kennedy kicked Minton in the chest area where she had recently had a mastectomy, and that she was knocked unconscious for several hours that night due to a head injury.

Robinette also reportedly suffered multiple internal injuries as a result of the alleged beating, and the restraints used when he was arrested by Kennedy and taken into custody.

The plaintiffs’ attorney says in the suit that the incident occurred despite the fact his clients had done nothing unlawful at the time.

The lawsuit continues by saying the officers tried to cover up their conduct by charging Robinette with misdemeanor obstruction of justice, misdemeanor brandishing a firearm and felony assault on a police officer.

Robinette was later found not guilty of those charges in Lee County General District Court, court records show. A Lee County grand jury also declined to indict Robinette when the charges were brought before it.

The suit was filed in federal court with the plaintiffs claiming the actions of Kennedy and Williams violated their civil and constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and 14th amendments.

The plaintiffs also claim the officers’ “unlawful and tortious conduct” violated their rights under Virginia state laws for assault and battery, false arrest/false imprisonment and trespass.

The lawsuit goes on to say the officers’ actions left Minton and Robinette “permanently and severely injured and disabled” as well as “physically, mentally, and emotionally injured and scarred.”

The alleged victims also say they have been “deprived of the normal activities they had before August 15, 2012” as a result of their injuries.

Both Kennedy and Williams are still employed by their respective law enforcement agencies.

The alleged victims in the case have also been interviewed by the Virginia State Police Office of Internal Affairs.

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