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Midland Christian officials sue the City of Midland over claims of police misconduct

In February, five staff members at the Midland private school were arrested for allegedly not reporting and concealing the sexual assault of a student. Now the five educators say police misrepresented facts during the investigation.

By Mitch Borden

Five Midland Christian School officials, including the school's former Superintendent Jared Lee, are suing the City of Midland and three local police officers over claims of police misconduct.

On Feb. 16, police arrested Lee, along with other top administrators at the private school, for allegedly failing to report and concealing the sexual assault of a student. A grand jury would later decline to indict the five educators on any criminal charges. 

Now, the five officials claim police lied and mischaracterized facts during their investigation. The administrators’ arrests, the lawsuit says, were an abuse of power that “irreversibly damaged their reputations.”

Referring to the educators as the “Midland Christian Five,” court documents filed Tuesday claim local police “lied and omitted material facts about the Midland Christian Five’s actions.” The documents went on to say the purpose of the civil suit is “to hold the government officials who violated their rights, and the governments who enabled them, accountable and to prove—once and for all in the eyes of the public and the law—that the Five did nothing wrong.”

According to police documents, the Midland Christian officials were arrested for not reporting a suspected sexual assault of a freshman baseball player by a team mate after a practice in January. At the time, investigators believed that the private school officials had known for weeks about the incident, looked into the reported assault, and actively kept it from the proper authorities.

However, the group’s attorney disputes this depiction of events, writing in the lawsuit that his clients “responded reasonably, appropriately, and with integrity to a locker room incident involving horseplay among members of Midland Christian School’s high school baseball team.”

The lawsuit says the five educators were aware of the incident and that they determined that a sophomore had “poked a freshman on his buttocks—over the clothes—with a bat.” 

Educators are required by state law to report any suspected abuse within 48 hours, but the group’s attorney claims “at no time did any school official have reasonable cause to believe the freshman had been sexually assaulted.”

According to the lawsuit, after “having multiple discussions with players present during the incident, including the freshman 'victim'—who denied that any type of sexual assault occurred—the Plaintiffs determined that the boys had been engaged in locker room horseplay.”

But after a parent at the private school contacted law enforcement, Midland police began their own investigation into the events.

The lawsuit claims the detective that  investigated the incident, Jennie Alonzo, along with other officers involved, set out on a “vindictive and malicious campaign to prosecute Plaintiffs based upon the unsupported rumor.”

“Alonzo wrote arrest warrant affidavits that contained deliberate—or, alternatively, reckless—falsehoods and omissions,” claimed the group’s attorney in the lawsuit. “These false statements were calculated to mislead the Justice of the Peace who issued the warrants.”

After being arrested, the majority of the private school officials left their positions at the school. According to Midland Christian’s staff director, only Matthew Counts remains on staff as a middle school history teacher and assistant football coach.

The lawsuit against the City of Midland also names Detective Alonzo as well as police Sgt. Rosemary Sharp and Officer Camilo Fonseca for their involvement in the investigation.

A spokesperson for the City of Midland declined to comment on the lawsuit, but did confirm on Tuesday that all three police officers were still employed by the city.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.