Settled candidate: Would-be Sheriff part of '06 suit
Usually for Mike Baird, a captain with the Charlottesville sheriff's office and now a Democratic candidate for sheriff, the job includes maintaining order in the city's circuit court. Three years ago, however, Baird found himself answering orders of the court after a lawsuit was filed there against him.
City resident Steven W. Shifflett charged that Baird knowingly made false statements to an Alexandria police officer that resulted in Shifflett getting arrested for impersonating an officer.
According to the suit, Baird also went so far as to "willfully, wantonly and maliciously" interfere with Shifflett's effort to become a member of the Elks' Lodge, a family-oriented fraternal lodge.
Shifflett, a former Greene County and Charlottesville deputy, sought $2 million in compensatory damages, $2 million in punitive damages and a trebling of damages awarded against the six defendants in his lawsuit, which include retired Charlottesville Police Sergeant Richard Hudson and two Alexandria police officers.
For Shifflett, it was the second time he'd been arrested for impersonating an officer, and he contends both times were false arrests. The first incident was 1997, when charges were lodged and then dropped against Shifflett, then a Greene County deputy, and the record of the case was expunged.
The second incident was December 16, 2004, when an Alexandria man was stopped by a male wearing a badge and identifying himself as an officer. Because the alleged impersonator had a license plate and car similar to Shifflett's, when Alexandria police called Charlottesville, according to the suit, Baird and Hudson mentioned Shifflett's earlier arrest for impersonating an officer, a charge both knew had been dismissed and expunged, the suit alleges.
Shifflett was arrested, even though he contended he's never set foot in Alexandria and didn't match the victim's description: a Hispanic male, 25 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall, 140 pounds with thick black hair. Shifflett is not Hispanic, was then over 50 years old, as well as taller and heavier–- and had graying hair and a mustache.
The Alexandria charges against Shifflett were thrown out in April 2005, and he filed his lawsuit the following January.
Baird settled the case April 21, 2008, and the terms of the agreement are confidential, says Shifflett's attorney, David Simonsen of Richmond, who says he also expects to settle with Alexandria officers John Crawford and Julie Goble before their scheduled July 13 trial.
A court date has not been set for Shifflett's case against Hudson.
"I will say that I never felt that Mike Baird was trying to be malicious," says Simonsen. "I think it was an unfortunate situation that he got pulled into. The way it played out was damaging to Steve, but I never thought it was malicious. You can tell by how quickly he settled."
Baird had not returned phone calls from the Hook at post time. He's vying for the Democratic nomination for sheriff in its firehouse primary May 9 against Albemarle police Officer James E. Brown III and Charlottesville Police Sergeant Phillip E. Brown.