The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Police/Courts

January 17, 2014

Motions filed in domestic battery case against BPD officer

BECKLEY — Another motions hearing was held Thursday for Beckley Police Cpl. Bryan Atterson, who is charged with domestic battery and unlawful detention against his former girlfriend.

Atterson’s defense attorney Chris Davis made four motions during the hearing, one to entirely dismiss the case, and three others requesting access to the victim’s criminal history, psychiatric and employment records.

Cpl. J.L. Redden responded to a domestic violence call Sept. 10, 2013, at the couple’s residence in Prosperity. In the complaint, the victim stated she was in a physical altercation with Atterson and he restrained her against her will from leaving the apartment.

The victim also cited in the complaint that Atterson put her in a choke hold, holding her to the point where she almost passed out. It is The Register-Herald’s policy not to publish the names of alleged victims of domestic abuse.

Davis said during the hearing Thursday that six days after the September altercation, the victim signed an affidavit stating that she believed the facts in the police report were untrue and that she did not believe Atterson meant to hurt her.

She and Atterson were the only two people present at the time of the incident, Davis said, and there were no other witnesses or people interviewed.

“The facts in the police report and her statement completely contradict. She’s the state’s sole witness.”

Davis added that the evidence fails to meet the state’s burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt” of Atterson’s guilt.

Wyoming County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory Bishop, appointed to represent the state after the Raleigh prosecutor asked to recused, said just because the victim signed an affidavit does not mean the case should be dismissed.

“The victim was experiencing psychological trauma during that time,” Bishop said.

Raleigh County Magistrate Steve Massie said the affidavit would be an admissible piece of evidence during the trial, but he could not grant a motion to dismiss the case until he hears from the victim and the responding officer. As for the other motions, Davis said he was requesting criminal history records because the victim was allegedly investigated for committing a criminal act of domestic violence against another former boyfriend.

He also said the victim was allegedly in a bar fight in Beckley, although no formal charges were made in that incident.

Bishop objected to the motion because he said it would be “improper character evidence,” but Massie said criminal records are a matter of public record, so he granted the motion.

As for the psychiatric records, Davis alleges the victim was undergoing care for anxiety and depression, and was being treated for anger management. He said Atterson attended some of the visits with her, which negates the confidentiality clause between her and her doctor.

“Victims have a fundamental right to privacy,” Bishop argued. “Psychiatric records are one of the most private records we have as citizens.”

Massie agreed to a review of the records, but the review will be done “in camera,” or privately.

Finally, Davis also made a motion requesting access to the victim’s employment records.

He said due to the alleged altercation at a local bar, the victim sustained injuries to her face, prompting her local news station employer to send her home. Bishop opposed this motion as well, as he said the victim has a right to privacy and these records could potentially provide “improper character evidence.”

“Everyone has a right to privacy. The victim should enjoy these rights as well. She is well-known and we believe the evidence would violate her rights even more than that of a common citizen.”

He said previous events should have no bearing on the current allegation.

Massie granted the motion for Davis to obtain records with days the victim was not at work from January 2012 through the present.

The next hearing is set for Feb. 25 at 10 a.m. when Massie and the attorneys will review the psychiatric records in camera.

A trial date should be scheduled after the hearing.

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

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