The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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April 6, 2012

Federal civil trial against Summers sheriff continues

— A federal civil trial in a case alleging sexual harassment and other misconduct in the Summers County Sheriff’s Office will continue Monday in U.S. District Court in Beckley.

A Summers County office deputy, Cheryl Bratcher, along with her husband, Amos Bratcher, filed the federal suit against Summers County Sheriff Edward Dolphin and Chief Deputy James Chellis in September 2010.

Bratcher claims that Dolphin asked her how much she would charge to give him a bath, along with many other inappropriate sexual comments.

She also claims she was intentionally and unlawfully shocked with a stun gun two times on the buttocks by both Chellis and another deputy. When she told Dolphin about the incident, Bratcher said Dolphin laughed and told her that her husband could “play connect the dots” with the marks made on her.

Bratcher also claims that Chellis has made comments on multiple occasions about clothing worn by women and sexually inappropriate comments about their bodies.

In addition to the many sexual harassment-related claims, Bratcher also says the male deputies were given a pay raise, while she was not.

During the trial Thursday, Bratcher continued her testimony in front of a seven-member jury.

Defense attorney George Joseph presented a journal-type log that Bratcher had used to keep track of noteworthy incidents at the office.

While many dates were marked, citing sexually inappropriate phrases spoken by Dolphin or Chellis, Joseph noted that many logs included incidents that were not relevant to the case, such as Bratcher citing times when the officers would enter and exit the department.

Joseph also noted that Bratcher stopped entering logs into the journal after June 17, 2010, and Bratcher confirmed there was a change in behavior at the sheriff’s office.

When the plaintiff’s attorney Anthony R. Veniri cross examined her, he said of course the defendants’ behavior is going to change after there has been a complaint filed against them.  

“Did it take courage to file this suit?” Veniri asked.

“Yes,” Bratcher said as she began to cry.

Dolphin was called as the next witness. He confirmed that Chellis used profane language frequently at the office and the males did discuss females sometimes.

Veniri asked Dolphin why he did not investigate further into the stun gun incident, as Bratcher had brought it to his attention.

“She was laughing about it,” Dolphin said. He said he dismissed the issue because her demeanor indicated she thought it was humorous; however, Bratcher was shaking her head as Dolphin made these statements.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday at 9 a.m.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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