MIDLAND, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- Lawyers for four Midland Trinity administrators have filed a civil suit against Midland District Attorney Laura Nodolf, the City of Midland, and MPD detective Jennie Alonzo. The administrators have alleged that their civil rights were violated and that they were arrested without cause.
According to an affidavit obtained last year, Dean of Students Todd Freese, Director of Admissions Adrianne Clifton, Head of Schools Shelby Hammer, and Head of Middle School Chrystal Meyers were all arrested in February of 2022 after a former student made an outcry of abuse. Alonzo secured warrants for the school leaders and arrested them on charges of failure to report with intent to conceal abuse.
The “Trinity Four”, as they have been dubbed, were taken to court earlier this year and after several days of testimony, the charges against them were dropped after Assistant District Attorney Timothy Flathers sent an email to the defendant’s counsel stating the DA’s office was questioning the validity of Alonzo’s testimony.
In the lawsuit, which described the administrators as having “lengthy and dedicated careers as devoted educators”, attorneys argued that Alonzo secured her arrest warrants under false pretenses.
“Those warrants were based on an affidavit Alonzo executed…that affidavit contained multiple lies and serious material omissions. Those lies and omissions formed the basis for the eventual charges faced by all four: failure to report the sexual assault of a child with the intent to conceal- a horrific, potentially career-ending allegation. Had Alonzo’s affidavit been truthful, there would not have been probable cause for an arrest in the first place,” the lawsuit reads.
Alonzo said that the student at the center of the investigation claimed to have been sexually assaulted by another student on campus, but a forensic interviewer said the student indicated that the alleged “sexual assault” simply meant she had been touched in places she didn’t want to be touched or had been touched without consent.
According to the lawsuit, Alonzo herself reported the outcry to CPS, which also investigated and “ultimately…CPS concluded there was not even a preponderance of evidence that any of the plaintiffs had done anything wrong,” the lawsuit reads.
The suit also contends that Alonzo was taking direction from Nodolf, who allegedly instructed Alonzo to bring back “felony charges”. Simple failure to report is a misdemeanor, while failure to report is a felony.
Further, the suit alleges that Nodolf has a “pattern of practice of acting far outside the bounds of District Attorney.”
The suit reads, “Relevant here, giving legal advice to police during the investigation phase of a case…similarly, an elected district attorney who advised law enforcement during the investigation, orders arrests, and at least conspires to have citizens arrested on affidavits lacking probable cause based on recklessly incomplete and/or false information is not entitled to qualified immunity.”
The suit also alleges that Nodolf refused to allow lawyers to speak with the administrators after they were arrested, even when they asked for counsel prior to the start of the interview process
Attorneys argued that “It is a widespread practice in Midland County for the District Attorney to collude with the Midland Police Department to arrest first, then investigate, and then prosecute for cover.” They also argued that it is a “widespread practice” for the DA and assistant DA co-conspirators to make deliberate misrepresentations to a grand jury in order to commence prosecution.”
The lawyers argued in the suit that it was this “widespread and persistent practice” that violated the administrators rights to due process, rights to counsel, rights to a speedy trial, and rights to be free from unreasonable searches, seizures, and arrests.
Freese, Clifton, Hammer, and Meyers are seeking damages exceeding $1,000,000 and have demanded a jury trial.