MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — United States Attorney William Ihlenfeld and a team of state and federal partners announced a new domestic violence reduction strategy on Monday, along with  the first round of indictments that resulted from it.

Ihlenfeld said they have been The Berkeley County Domestic Violence Reduction Initiative for about six months.  “Domestic abusers are some of the most violent people in our community, some of the most dangerous people in our community – not only for their victims who they often terrorize, but also to the police officers who have to respond to domestic calls.”

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Catie Wilkes Delligatti laid out the numbers in Berkeley County, joined by victims’ advocates.  In roughly 15 months, Berkeley County has served over 1,100 victims of domestic battery and  113 of those were strangulation.

One of the victim’s advocates spoke about the prevalence of the problem.  “About four out of every ten women have experienced some type of intimate partner violence in their lifetime.  One in five victims are killed by a domestic partner.  Victims are five times more likely to die if their abuser has access to a gun.”

There have already been dividends from the collaboration.  Ihlenfeld said five federal indictments have been returned.  One of them remains under seal.

  • Paul Richard Tomlinson, 23, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, was indicted on firearms, witness tampering, and interstate violations. According to court documents, Tomlinson had a protective order filed against him in Berkeley County. Tomlinson violated that order, having someone on his behalf contact the protected party, trying to persuade the victim to drop the protective order and claim ownership of a .22 caliber pistol that investigators say belongs to Tomlinson. He is prohibited from having firearms due to a prior conviction.
  • Brian Michael Lewis, 42, of Levels, West Virginia, has been charged with two firearms charges involving eight firearms, two receivers, and ammunition. According to court documents, Lewis, who has previous convictions that prohibit firearms possession, was arrested after officers responded to a domestic violence call and found the various firearms, including an unregistered short-barrel rifle.
  • Gabriel Ian Smith, 45, of Falling Waters, West Virginia, was charged with one firearms violation. Smith, who cannot have firearms because of a domestic battery conviction in Berkeley County, had a 9mm pistol and ammunition.
  • Justin Scott Shaw, 34, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, was indicted on a firearms charge for having a 9mm pistol and ammunition despite a domestic battery conviction in Berkeley County.

Martinsburg Police Chief George Swartwood called the partnership “game changing” in the way some of the cases are pursued and prosecuted.

For his part, Berkeley County Sheriff Nathan Harmon since it’s a federal charge, “these folks do every drop of their time (in prison.)  There’s no early release for good behavior.  These folks that  batter their spouse … those folks need to be put away for a while.”

Harmon says the initiative doesn’t create new gun restrictions, but enforces those that exist.  “We’re not recreating the wheel on … establishing any new gun restrictions.”

“What we are finding out is that these folks that are suspect to (commit) domestic violence have had previous convictions where they shouldn’t have a firearm in the first place.  That should absolutely be enforced.   I’ve always been an advocate of let’s not create new laws, let’s enforce the existing ones the way they need to be enforced.”

US Attorney Ihlenfeld unveiled the Berkeley County Domestic Violence Reduction Initiative alongside officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office; the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office; the Martinsburg Police Department; and the Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center.

A press release from his office stated, “The initiative was formed in January to protect domestic violence victims, take dangerous criminals off the streets, and enhance community safety. The program focuses on prosecuting violent offenders, keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals, and conducting training for law enforcement.”

“The agencies involved meet regularly to share intelligence, make charging decisions, and provide support to victims,” according to the press release.

“Domestic abusers are some of the most dangerous individuals in our community,” said United States Attorney Ihlenfeld. “This new and innovative approach will make Berkeley County safer for everyone, and especially for victims of domestic violence.”

Multiple federal indictments were returned in May under the initiative, including the following:

Investigators on the cases include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office; the Martinsburg Police Department; and the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office. The Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office and the Hampshire County Prosecutor’s Office assisted.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Ward, also with the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office, is prosecuting the cases on behalf of the government.

The  US Attorney’s office emphasizes that an indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.