WHEELING - A judge today granted former Wheeling police officer Matthew Kotson's appeal of his firing, saying city officials overstepped their boundaries when they terminated his employment without granting him a hearing before the city's Police Civil Service Commission.
City Manager Robert Herron fired Kotson from the police department on Dec. 2. The Civil Service Commission in April unanimously upheld Herron's decision.
In an order filed in the Ohio County Circuit Clerk's office this morning, Judge James Mazzone said no exigent circumstances existed to justify denying Kotson a hearing before the Civil Service Commission prior to his firing.
In a previous hearing, City Solicitor Rosemary Humway-Warmuth cited "exigent circumstances" saying the combination of multiple factors permitted Herron to fire Kotson without granting him a hearing.
Kotson and his attorney, Joe John, appealed to the circuit court during an appeal hearimg last month.
Kotson was placed on unpaid leave Nov. 25, one day after a woman told West Virginia State Police he sexually assaulted her. Several others women then came forward with similar accusations. City officials subsequently suspended him without pay on Nov. 29.
Senior Status Judge Arthur Recht in July granted a motion by the prosecution to dismiss one of eight criminal counts against Kotson, canceling the first of his four scheduled trials. Special Prosecutor David F. Cross made the motion, stating there was insufficient evidence to prove Kotson's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because "key prosecution witnesses are now making statements inconsistent with what the State originally believed that they would testify to," and that potential witnesses refused to cooperate with investigating officers.
On Sept. 19, Kotson was acquitted by an Ohio County jury on one count of first-degree sexual abuse. The jury failed to reach a verdict on the second, identical count, and Recht subsequently declared a mistrial.
Kotson is scheduled to face similar sexual assaults charges at trials set for March 25 and April 1 .