Trial begins for Nitro officer accused of choking suspect unconscious during arrest

The trial for Nitro police Sgt. Timothy Jarrell started Monday in Kanawha County Magistrate Court. Jarrell is facing charges of battery and false swearing in connection with an arrest in May 2016. (WCHS/WVAH)

The criminal trial for a Nitro Police Sergeant got underway Monday in Kanawha County Magistrate Court.

Sgt. Timothy Jarrell had been with the department for more than ten years when he was placed on paid administrative leave following an arrest in May 2016.

Jarrell was indicted in January 2017 on two misdemeanor charges of battery and false swearing. Prosecutors say he rendered a man unconscious in a choke-hold during an arrest that happened outside of Nitro city limits. Prosecutors also claim Jarrell wrote in a criminal complaint that the man under arrest, Jared Hester, became physically non-compliant during the arrest when he didn't.

The incident started on May 7, 2016 at the Mardi Gras Casino when Hester was asked to leave because he was too intoxicated.

Hester was the first witness to be called in the trial and testified that he couldn't get a room at the casino because it was full so a shuttle bus took him to a Comfort Inn in Cross Lanes, which is located outside of the city limits of Nitro.

After Hester arrived at the hotel, he said Jarrell pulled in and told him him to get a hotel room to which Hester says he replied that Jarrell couldn't make him do that. He said Jarrell approached him and told him to put his hands behind his back but that he did not resist when he started to arrest him.

That's when Jarrell is accused of putting Hester in a choke-hold, causing Hester to become unconscious.

Hester says he never made a complaint about the arrest to anyone with the city but did hire a lawyer to represent him on the criminal charges.

Officers with internal affairs for the Nitro Police Department later traveled to North Carolina, where Hester lives, to interview him about the arrest after questions were raised internally over the incident.

A man named Josh Culbterson also testified on Monday that he was involved in an altercation with Jarrell outside of a Mexican restaurant where Jarrell also put him in a choke-hold and rendered him unconscious.

Nitro Mayor Dave Casebolt testified that Culbertson, who he described as "like a son," told him about the incident and Casebolt had expressed concern over the use of choke-holds by Nitro police. Casebolt said he didn't want the maneuver used at all, if possible.

Former Nitro Police Chief Steve Walker testified that it was his opinion, along with the opinion of the city attorney and Kanawha County prosecutor's office, that Jarrell did not have the authority to make the arrest.

"Once they gave up Jared Hester to a private entity, in a private van, driven by a civilian, they gave up all rights to that call," he told the jury. He was not the chief at the time of the incident.

The defense believes Jarrell was a target on the force after filing a lawsuit alongside four other officers over asbestos exposure inside the police department and making a complaint that another officer stole money.

Jarrell is still employed by the city and has collected more than $75,000 in pay since his suspension, according to Chief Bobby Eggleton.

Jarrell has been served termination papers but a Conduct Review Board has yet to hear the case and make a final decision on his employment status.

The trial will continue on Tuesday at 9 a.m. and is being heard by Magistrate Mike Sisson. Jarrell is represented by Dan Holstein. The state is represented by Rob Schulenberg.

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