Boykins hires convicted cop

Published 4:07 pm Sunday, September 7, 2008

BOYKINS—The new town sergeant in Boykins comes to the job with experience on both sides of the law.

James Henry “Hank” Fuller, the 29-year-old Boykins resident and former state trooper who was convicted this spring of three charges related to having sex with a minor, was hired by the Town Council following a closed-door discussion Tuesday night.

Fuller began his duties for the town on Friday in preparation for Tropical Storm Hanna, according to Mayor Spier Edwards. Council members voted 4-1 in favor of hiring him for the $26,200-a-year, full-time position.

Fuller resigned his job as a Virginia State Police trooper in April after turning himself in to face trial on two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one count of having consensual sexual relations with a minor.

Meeting minutes reflect that Town Council members cited a 25-year history of making hiring decisions “based on what they felt to be the highest interest of the community, taking into consideration qualifications and what the budget allowed for compensation.”

“Considering the qualifications and the imminent need that we had,” Fuller was the best of the four candidates council had to choose from, Vice Mayor Linda Beatty said Friday. “He was the most qualified.”

In moving to offer Fuller the job, Beatty broke with tradition and suggested that the town give him a one-year probationary period, instead of the customary 90 days. On Friday, she explained that the change was “because of the extenuating circumstances” created by his three sex-related misdemeanor convictions.

In the mind of one council member, those extenuating circumstances should have been enough to keep Fuller out of the job.

“I did not think that it was the proper thing to do to hire him,” Rhonda Mathias said Friday afternoon of her lone opposition vote.

“It’s kind of cut and dried to me,” she added. “He’s supposed to uphold the laws. To me, he kind of put himself above the law.”

Support for Fuller’s hiring came not only from Mathias’ fellow council members but from citizens attending the meeting.

According to Mayor Edwards, 15 to 20 citizens were present at the special meeting Tuesday evening. Thirteen of those residents spoke, including Fuller, and none expressed opposition to the hire, council members agreed.

Fuller came under investigation early this year when an 18-year-old Newsoms woman reported that she had been in a consensual relationship with him since 2005.

The victim, whose name is being withheld in accordance with The Tidewater News’ policy of protecting the identities of sex-crime victims, told police she had started the relationship with Fuller when she was 15 and he was 26.

The victim’s first sexual encounter with Fuller occurred in 2005, according to a courtroom description of the case by Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke, who said there were also two December 2005 encounters between a 27-year-old Fuller and the then-16-year-old girl.

The victim had recorded accounts of the encounters in two journals that she provided to investigators as evidence.

An affidavit supporting a request for a search warrant stated that the couple’s relationship ended in January of this year.

Until his arrest in April, Fuller served as a trooper in the State Police Area 34 office in Courtland, with duties in Southampton and Isle of Wight counties. He received the posting after graduating from the State Police Academy.

Edwards said Friday that Fuller had been the only applicant certified by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

Voting in favor of the motion to hire Fuller as town sergeant were Boykins council members Beatty, Mary E. Washington, Mike Gadsby and Amy Gautier.

Gautier refused to comment Friday on her vote. Washington and Gadsby could not be reached for comment by presstime.

As mayor, Edwards has only a tiebreaking vote. On Friday, he said, “Council made the decision to hire Hank, and I’m 100 percent behind it.”