BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — In a federal lawsuit filed in June 2022 in United States Court of the Southern District of West Virginia, Beckley attorney Stephen New alleged Southern Regional Jail guards and West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials violated the rights of those incarcerated at Southern Regional Jail by forcing them into overcrowded cells, failing to provide adequate health care, and by deferring facility maintenance.

Court transcripts show, in a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Omar Aboulhosn, Executive Officer Brad Douglas testified he knew of the ongoing litigation but he and other state officials did not take steps to preserve evidence like emails and video surveillance.

New said he had sent around a dozen letters, starting last year, directing state officials to save emails, which were important as evidence.

“One of the things we have to prove in this case is knowledge, deliberate indifference,” said New on Monday, October 9, 2023. “And the way that you prove that a state actor is deliberately indifferent is by proving knowledge on their part of Constitutional deficiencies.”

Court transcripts show email accounts, including those of an outgoing Southern Regional Jail superintendent, were purged, destroying emails. According to the transcripts, the judge called the failure by state officials “serious stuff” and said he had a hard time understanding how the emails were not saved.

New said he plans to ask the court to issue harsh sanctions against state officials for failing to save evidence.

“It’s deeply troubling to me, as an attorney, when evidence preservation letters go out, when the State of West Virginia has policies, specifically on this, and the excuse just is, ‘We never thought of it,’” he said.