Two West Virginia State Police administrators have been demoted as investigations continue into widespread misconduct within the top ranks of the agency.
Maj. Shallon Oglesby, chief of staff services, and Maj. James Findley, of the Professional Standards Division, have been “moved back” to their permanent ranks of lieutenant, interim Superintendent Col. Jack Chambers said Wednesday in an administration briefing hosted by Gov. Jim Justice.
Jim Mitchell was promoted to major and will be one of two officers in the department tasked with working with the news media, Chambers said.
Chambers took over as interim superintendent last week, when Col. Jan Cahill resigned after being told by the governor there was “no path forward” that would allow him to keep his job.
None of the department’s other top administrators have been fired, despite being specifically named in allegations of misconduct in an anonymous letter sent to government officials and the news media about six months ago. The letter prompted an investigation by the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security.
“This is not about how many scalps we can say we got,” Justice said. “This is all about trying to do the right thing, cleaning it up, making it right going forward.”
Allegations in the anonymous letter included extramarital encounters and fights between top-ranking State Police officials on state property, the use of fleet vehicles to facilitate trysts, a hidden camera in a women’s locker room at the State Police Academy in Institute, the personal use of government purchasing cards, misuse of funds and theft of overtime pay.
On Wednesday, the Justice administration confirmed an FBI investigation into an alleged rape perpetrated by a trooper. Justice said the case involved one trooper but it “may be multiple rapes.”
A letter, dated March 21, from attorney Dante diTrapano, of the law firm Calwell Luce and diTrapano in Charleston, to John Hoyer, general counsel for the State Police, details an alleged incident on Dec. 17 and 18, 2021, in which a trooper reportedly drugged, abducted and raped a woman, who is now filing a lawsuit.
“Your police officer, while flashing his badge around the American Legion Post 19 club in Logan, West Virginia, changed my client’s life forever,” diTrapano wrote in the letter. “She cannot ever go back to work, she is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and is in intense treatment and counseling in connection with the physical, mental, emotional, and psychological injuries visited upon her.”
The letter, which was distributed to the news media, continues by saying the woman woke up naked in her bed, covered with blood, urine and feces.
“Her earrings were ripped out of her ears, her hair was pulled out, her teeth were damaged, and she had been raped vaginally and sodomized with some instrument. This is all confirmed by the rape unit at the emergency department at CAMC Women’s and Children’s Hospital, in Charleston, West Virginia,” diTrapano wrote in the letter.
According to the letter, the trooper later contacted the woman through social media to ask if he had left his hat in her car.
“The FBI has this message, and his hat, so you may want to discuss that with them, as well,” diTrapano wrote in the letter.
The Justice administration declined to comment on the case during Wednesday’s briefing, referring questions to the FBI.
The governor said an investigation also is continuing into the February death of Edmond Exline, who died after troopers deployed a stun gun during an encounter on Interstate 81 in Berkeley County.
“I’ll promise you that the situation on I-81 does not look good, that’s all there is to it,” Justice said.
The governor said the investigation is nearing completion regarding the alleged theft of $750 by an off-duty captain from a patron at the Mardi Gras Casino, in Cross Lanes. The Justice administration released a video last week that allegedly shows the officer, who is in plain clothes, picking up an envelope that was left behind by another patron of the casino.
According to the administration, the officer was allowed to retire, rather than be fired. Another officer who investigated and allegedly helped cover up the theft was exonerated of wrongdoing, despite not notifying his superiors of the alleged incident.
“Many times in an organization, we feel like, or it’s perceived, that people on the outside may not like us, so we’ve got to take care of one another. And, before you know it, the culture grows and it gets out of control, and then bad stuff can happen,” Justice said.
He said investigations also continue into a hidden camera in a women’s locker room at the academy. The camera reportedly was placed by a former administrator who later died.
The State Police is conducting internal investigations into these incidents, in conjunction with an ongoing investigation by the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security.
“We had some things that are just so off the chart, and it’s just unbelievable — conduct that we absolutely can’t have,” Justice said during Wednesday’s briefing. “We’re trying with all in us, and we’ll get to the very bottom of it. And we’ll absolutely cleanse, the best we possibly can.”