2017-07-26 / Front Page

Hampshire County man sues Morgan County Commission, deputy and couple over sex assault claim

by Jim King
reprinted from The Hampshire Review

A Hampshire County man is suing his cousin, her ex-husband, a Morgan County deputy and the Morgan County Commission over the cousin’s two-year-old claim that he sexually assaulted her 11 years ago.

Carson Gross, Jr. of Paw Paw says in a complaint filed last month in Hampshire County court that his reputation has been damaged by the charges, which were dropped, so he is asking for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, interest, and all his legal fees, to be determined in a jury trial.

Gross claims that Morgan County Deputy Clifton Cobern Jr. helped Melanie Davis-Allison and Roger Davis pursue her claim outside his jurisdiction and allegedly resorting to underhanded tactics. The Morgan County Commission becomes involved since it was Cobern’s employer.

Cobern was fired by the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department in June for an unspecified “policy violation.”

Gross and Allison joined about 40 friends on a whitewater rafting trip to Fayetteville on June 2-4, 2006. The pair shared a tent next to the excursion leader James Smith Jr.’s.

Gross contends that on the second day of the trip, the group rafted 10 miles, went to dinner and came back to camp, where a lot of drinking occurred into the wee hours of the next morning.

The group returned home the next day and, Gross says, for nine years he and Allison maintained “the same friendly, cordial relationship they shared prior to the rafting trip.”

That changed on July 8, 2015, when Allison contacted Cobern and accused Gross of sexually assaulting her on the trip. First-degree sexual assault has no statute of limitations in West Virginia.

Gross says that five days later Allison met with Cobern to discuss the case even though Morgan County had no jurisdiction. He said the pair called him with Cobern secretly recording the conversation, making several tries to get Gross to admit to the assault.

Federal law requires taped conversations to have the consent of all parties involved unless a warrant has been issued permitting the wiretap.

Cobern apparently handed the case off to the state police at that point. Eleven months later in June 2016, the Fayette County prosecutor charged Gross with 1st-degree sexual assault. Allison complained that he forcibly removed her clothes in the tent and had sexual intercourse with her.

Gross was arrested on June 20 and held in the Potomac Highlands Regional Jail. His complaint notes that dozens of affidavits — nearly 80 in all — poured in vouching for the events of the night. None appeared to support Allison’s claim.

In January the case was presented to a Fayette County grand jury, which dismissed the charges, returning a finding of “no true bill.”

Gross is suing Allison for malicious prosecution, abuse of process and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is charging conspiracy among Allison, Davis and Cobern, acting both on his own and as an agent for Morgan County.

At press time, no hearing dates have been set.

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