Former Nelsonville officials named in lawsuit alleging Civil Rights violations

Couple claims their rights were violated following an incident with the Nelsonville Police Department.
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 9:57 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Former Nelsonville officials are being sued for alleged civil rights violations.

Scott Fitch, who currently serves as Meigs County Sheriff, has been named along with others in a lawsuit concerning the civil rights of a couple seeking millions in damages.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. In the suit, Bobby Hunt and Ashley Klinedinst claim their rights were violated following an incident with the Nelsonville Police Department. At the time, Fitch was the Chief of the Nelsonville Police Department.

Fitch, along with Scott Frank (then Nelsonville City Manager), K.J. Tracy (then Sargent for NPD) and Benjamin Adams (then police officer at NPD) were all named in the suit along with the City of Nelsonville.

The couple are seeking $500,000 compensatory award and $1.5 million punitive damages “where applicable for each Plaintiff and against each Defendant individually and the City of Nelsonville on each count.”

According to court documents, Hunt and Klinedinst state their First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated after an incident on June 6, 2022. Both ended up in handcuffs, held for hours and had their children temporarily placed with Child Protective Services. The couple believes they were unjustly targeted because Hunt is African American, and their children are bi-racial.

Days before the June 6 incident, words were exchanged while their children were playing in their yard with Frank. Words were again exchanged with Frank as they stopped at a stop sign near the home of Frank’s daughter. The couple contend they were targeted by the official leading to the incident on June 6 in which both were placed in handcuffs, CPS was called to take their children and charges were filed against Hunt and Klinedinst.

On June 6, the couple alleges that Fitch ran a check on a motorcycle legally parked in front of their home. While the registration was valid, Hunt did not have a motorcycle endorsement. The motorcycle was eventually towed. Adams issued a summons to appear in Mayor’s Court for operating the motorcycle without a license. Hunt received the summons. He then remained outside for some time before going to his car.

When Hunt was walking to his car he stated, “Hey, I got my hoodie on, please don’t shoot.”

The lawsuit claims Fitch was standing nearly forty feet away and responded, “You wouldn’t be the first one.”

According to the lawsuit following the statement from Fitch, Hunt said “what” and Fitch then stated, “You wouldn’t be the first one I have.”

The incident escalated to the point Hunt was placed in handcuffs by Adams and put in the backseat of a police cruiser. The suit alleges that Fitch choked Hunt while placing him in the cruiser. At the time, Hunt had the keys to his car in his hands. He was going to pick up three of their children. Klinedinst asked for the keys. She was not given the keys and after asking a couple of times, opened the opposite cruiser door to where Hunt was sitting. Upon doing so, she was also arrested and placed in handcuffs by Adams.

During this, Klinedinst had been filming on her phone. The lawsuit alleges the officers took the phone. Fitch stated the phone was not in evidence.

Following the arrest of both parents, a six-month-old baby was left unattended in the home. Child Protective Services was called to take the baby and eventually the other children who were with their grandmother at a local youth organization, The Hive.

Klinedinst was released later without having been processed in a jail facility. She stated she was pregnant and had a specific medication she needed to take. When the Southeast Ohio Regional Jail would not take Klinedinst because of the medication, she was then taken to be tested for pregnancy and COVID, according to the lawsuit.

Both cases against Klinedinst and Hunt were ultimately dismissed at the request of the Athens County Prosecutor.

Fitch declined comment stating he cannot discuss pending litigation.

Fitch has been Meigs County Sheriff since he was appointed by the Meigs County Commissioners to fill the seat vacated by Keith Wood.