CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Another allegation of wrongdoing by the West Virginia State Police is under investigation by the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security.
The allegation stems from another anonymous letter about an incident in May 2021. In it, the writer says that an “appointee of Colonel [Jan] Cahill” was caught on camera stealing cash from a man at the Mardi Gras Casino in Cross Lanes.
The letter claims that the incident was covered up by the West Virginia State Police.
No charges were ever filed in the case, and 7News partner 13 News is not naming the captain.
According to the contents of the letter, the Captain accused of taking the money retired when confronted about the incident.
Both Cahill and the Justice Administration confirm the retirement.
An internal investigation has also been launched about another trooper, who was at the time assigned to the West Virginia Lottery and would have had knowledge of the incident.
The retirement is sparking backlash at a time when the accountability of the top brass of the West Virginia State Police is being called into question by another anonymous letter that alleges 18 points of serious widespread misconduct among the top leaders of the department.
The letter that discusses a hidden camera in a WVSP woman’s locker room, abuse of overtime, personal use of state-owned vehicles, and top leadership not being held to the same standards as the lower-ranking members has prompted a Department of Homeland Security investigation into the West Virginia State Police at the direction of Governor Jim Justice.
Cahill and the Justice Administration both agree that Cahill was made aware of the latest alleged incident on February 16 during a meeting with Governor Jim Justice’s Chief of Staff Brian Abraham. Both sides agree the meeting was called because Cahill was frustrated that he was not personally made aware of the DHS investigation into the West Virginia State Police.
Both sides also agree that during the meeting Justice Chief of Staff Abraham brought the new letter about the allegations of theft at the Mardi Gras Casino in Cross Lanes to the Colonel’s attention.
The sides differ when it comes to what happened after that.
The Justice Administration released this statement about the meeting:
“On February 16, 2023, Brian Abraham, Chief of Staff for the Governor, had a conversation with Col. Cahill where Col. Cahill expressed his frustration that he was not more involved in the Dept. of Homeland Security investigation. Chief Abraham then advised Col. Cahill about the incident at Mardi Gras Casino and the actions of the Troopers involved. Col. Cahill asked Chief Abraham for advice on how to handle the matter. Chief Abraham recommended that Col. Cahill terminate the employment of both Troopers involved by the close of business on February 16, 2023. Subsequently, on February 17, 2023, Chief Abraham called Col. Cahill to inquire about what happened with the Troopers on February 16, 2023. Col. Cahill advised that one Trooper opted to retire. Col. Cahill further advised that he transferred another from the bureau of criminal investigations to the Turnpike. Neither of those actions was recommended to Col. Cahill by Chief Abraham. Col. Cahill also advised that an internal investigation was initiated with regard to the Trooper that was transferred.”
However, Cahill told 13 News over the phone Tuesday evening that he did not ask for advice on how to proceed and that the statement about him being advised to fire the troopers is “categorically false.” He went on to say that West Virginia State Code requires an investigation and referred 13 News to 81-CSR10, which he says outlines the process and guidelines for such instances.
As for the other trooper who was removed from what Col. Cahill calls “lottery duty,” 13 News’ Amanda Barren asked Col. Cahill why even the appearance of impropriety in light of the Department of Homeland Security Investigation did not result in the trooper being put on administrative leave rather than being transferred to another job.
Cahill will not confirm in what department the Trooper is now working.
“The people working with him said that’s the reason they wanted him kept on,” Cahill said. “He was removed from the lottery. He’s kind of been on desk duty. I mean, it was pretty much told to me I’ve not seen the final report on there, but they felt like he handled it like what I was being told when I made an inquiry felt like he handled it like every other one of those similar situations would have been handled at the lottery so we didn’t put him on administrative leave at that point but he has not been reassigned to the turnpike.”
Cahill said he is disappointed the allegations were not brought to his attention earlier.
Cahill said he has not seen the final inquiry. “The trooper handled this in the same way that the Mardi Gras has every similar incident of that,” Cahill said.
“Should troopers be handled the same way?” Barren asked. “In this sense, should they be held to a different standard…a higher standard?”
“I would say yes. This is how this is supposed to be held even to a higher standard. But that’s why the inquiry comes in we’ll be looking at that guy as the investigating officer judgment trooper should be held to a higher standard. But the initial I haven’t seen the final initial inquiry tells me just why he was just moved the desk job and away from the lottery that he handled that exactly how the Mardi Gras handles handle similar occurrences like that so I can’t get into the weeds on really what happened on that and some of the things I never will be able to because that’s what you call a protective statement…”
Cahill went on to explain that the protective statement is called a Garrity statement that can be used as a part of an internal investigation but not against a person as a part of a criminal proceeding. Those statements would include taking a polygraph test.
The retired trooper at the center of the alleged theft caught on camera was, Col. Cahill said, a high-ranking officer.
Neither Cahill nor a spokesperson for the Justice Administration will confirm how much money the investigation involves.
The letter about the alleged theft at Mardi Gras Casino did not come to the attention of 13 News until after our on-camera sit-down interview with Cahill. But when asked about his top-ranking officials in regards to allegations raised in the original anonymous letter and by an attorney for a West Virginia State Police Trooper who calls his clients charges of domestic violence and strangulation retaliation for filing a grievance, Col. Cahill said that he has complete confidence in his top brass and that he had a track record of accountability.
Regarding the original anonymous letter Barren asked, “And even if these people who are high ranking officials who have been called out by the is letter and the attorney for Trooper (Joseph) Comer, which we will get to in a moment, saying that is where they believe the problems lie within, people who are on your team at the top, if those people on the team at the top were doing things that were nefarious,” Barren said, “Oh they would be gone. I mean, I’ve got a track record of that as well.,” Cahill said, “Yes, they would be gone.”
During that interview, Cahill called into question the validity of the State Department of Homeland Security Investigation. He believes the WVSP could have fairly handled the investigation
“I mean, where does this stop and I just have, I don’t have any confidence in the Homeland Security investigation. I think there’s an agenda against the state police. I think there’s an agenda against me,” Cahill said, citing his differences with DHS Secretary Jeff Sandy,.
13 News brought the claim of the lack of confidence in the investigation to Sandy.
In a statement, he said, “The men and women of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security take their responsibility to the Governor extremely seriously. Our team is made up of former West Virginia State Police Troopers, former county prosecutors, attorneys, and other professionals, with over 180 years of combined investigative experience, whose shared goal is integrity and impartiality. We are diligently working on the investigation, and the results will be shared when the time is appropriate.”
During a press briefing Wednesday, Governor Jim Justice, who appointed Cahill, said in part:
“I’ve said and as far as the comments about Colonel Cahill and everything, you know, Jan’s been a friend and, and, you know, I hope I hope to goodness that the investigation comes in differently than I think it’s gonna come in. But I don’t think this is going to be a good day for several folks and, you know, once it’s completed.”
In an interview with 13 News set to air Sunday as a part of Inside West Virginia Politics, Justice told 13 News Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis that the investigation could be wrapped up by early next week.
13 News has asked specific questions about the investigation, however, no specific information about the investigation is being released at this time.