Judge dismisses claim against police chief

A federal judge has dismissed Strasburg Police Chief Timothy Sutherly as a defendant in a lawsuit by a former town officer who was fired over actions related to the execution of a search warrant in December 2009.

Part of the lawsuit filed by former officer Aaron Lewis remains intact and leaves the town of Strasburg as the remaining defendant. Lewis accuses town officials of tampering with witnesses and preventing him from calling them to testify at a grievance hearing that preceded his firing.

Judge Michael F. Urbanski issued an order in which he agreed to hear further arguments about “whether the town obstructed, impeded or otherwise interfered with” attempts by Lewis to call a witness before the grievance board.

Julia B. Judkins and Dawn E. Boyce, of Fairfax, who represented Sutherly and the town, argued in their motion for dismissal that “the facts are insufficient as a matter of law to support a claim or cause of action” against Sutherly.

Lewis was part of a tactical team that conducted a drug bust in which a woman who was arrested later filed a complaint. She said someone hit her with a flashlight when police entered her residence. She also accused police of kicking a man after he was arrested and had surrendered.

Sutherly fired Lewis weeks later after the grievance hearing. Sutherly listed excessive use of force, violation of safety rules and making a false statement as his reasons for firing Lewis.

Lewis challenged his firing, but lost appeals filed with the Shenandoah County Circuit Court and the Virginia Supreme Court.

Sutherly was non-committal Monday about dismissal of the claim against him.

“It’s been going on for five years, and we’ve said all we can about the case,” Sutherly said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com