CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Logan County home confinement officer said that a woman accused him of repeatedly forcing her to have oral sex with him as part of a conspiracy to get a cash award in a civil lawsuit.John Phillip Reed, 73, is on trial this week in federal court in Charleston on allegations that he coerced April Tomblin Chafin to have oral sex with him in his office and threatened to take steps to send her to jail if she refused.Chafin sued Reed and the Logan County Commission last year. She alleged that the county's failure to properly train Reed contributed to her being assaulted. "This case is a case about clearing the name of a good man," Reed's lawyer, Billie Jo Streyle, said Wednesday. "Justice in this case is to give this man his name back."In April 2009, while she was on home confinement on charges of attempted grand larceny, Chafin reportedly stepped out of range of her ankle monitor to drink beer with a neighbor, according to court records.The next morning, Reed called Chafin into his office and told her to close and lock his office door. No other employees were at the office at the time, said Chafin's lawyer, Kerry Nessle.Reed questioned Chafin about stepping out of range and then told her that "if you would give me [oral sex], then I won't send you to jail," court records state.Chafin reluctantly complied. Afterward, she did not report the incident to police because she had a pending charge against her and she believed she would go to jail for leaving her home. Reed, who wore a badge and a service weapon, also intimidated her, Nessle said.
The next month, Reed helped Chafin get a job at a local market and asked her to come back to the office to fill out paperwork. Reed told her that she "owed" him, Nessle said, and again forced her to perform oral sex.Once again, the following month, Reed called Chafin to the home confinement office for a drug screening, and allegedly told the woman that he had control over whether she went to jail or not."This is all up to me," Reed said, according to court records. "I can get you released on home confinement [or], you know, I can give you a bad report and have you sent to jail."He beckoned Chafin behind the table with him, unzipped his pants and once again forced her to have oral sex, court records state.
Reed, the first witness to take the stand Wednesday, repeatedly denied having inappropriate sexual contact with any enrollee on home confinement. He said that Chafin's lawsuit is part of a conspiracy that she, Jeananne Gilco and Sherry Frye came up with while they were housed together in a regional jail.Streyle pointed out that Gilco and Frye also hired Nessle to target Reed in sexual assault lawsuits. Gilco's case is awaiting trial. Frye's lawsuit would not stick because the statute of limitations ran out, Streyle said.Reed, after Nessle pointed out that Chafin and Frye had met each other just a few days ago, admitted that he did not have any evidence that the women conspired while in jail.
"If I could prove it, I wouldn't be here," he said.In April 2009, the same month when Reed allegedly assaulted Chafin, Gilco was placed on home confinement on charges stemming from the death of a woman who was stabbed while in her home, court records state.The next month, she drove to the home confinement office and parked her car in the garage. Reed saw her exit the vehicle and questioned her about whether she had a license. When she said that she did not, Reed led her back to her vehicle and told her to give him oral sex, court records state.Marie Belcher, who works in the home confinement office, described Reed as a father figure to her and said that she never saw him close his door with a client in the room, or make sexually inappropriate advances or comments toward anyone."He's just a really good guy," she said.Belcher also pointed out that the walls in the office are paper-thin and the staffers would have overheard any sexual activity through Reed's door.
"I really feel they are all just false accusations," she said. "I really hate that we're here today."Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.