A Virginia teacher was awarded $5 million by a jury after she was falsely accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old student.
Kimberly Winters was a high school English teacher when Loudoun County sheriff’s deputies raided her home in November 2018 and arrested her for allegedly sexually assaulting the male student, The Washington Post reported. She told the outlet that deputies in full riot gear entered her home, pulled her out of bed, handcuffed her, and patted her down in her front yard while she was still in her pajamas.
“It was very terrifying,” Winters told the outlet. “I still have nightmares. Big guns.”
She was put in the Loudoun jail and her mug shot was sent out to the media with a press release saying she had been charged with sexually abusing the student. She was fired from her teaching position at Park View High School and couldn’t find work for two years, being turned away even as a stock clerk at a grocery store. She told the Post she developed anxiety and tremors due to the allegations.
“It became so humiliating, I literally couldn’t go out of my house,” she said. “This has been going on for four years. The repeated trauma of having to relive this created this tremor. My entire body shakes.”
The allegations were questionable at best and never properly investigated by Det. Peter Roque prior to Winters’ arrest, according to her lawyer. A sworn search warrant application from the time of her arrest said, in Roque’s handwriting, that “Witnesses’ statements are corroborated by phone records,” but no such phone records exist.
The accuser was a Park View graduate who, along with his mother, initially claimed the sexual abuse happened in the fall of 2018. They reported it to the school district and then the Loudoun County Sheriff’s office, both of whom determined the student would have been 18 at the time of the allegations, so no crime would have occurred.
Winters maintains that she never had any sexual relationship with the accuser, before or after he turned 18.
Winters sued Roque and Sheriff Mike Chapman following the dismissal of the charges against her, arguing in her lawsuit that the student, who has not been named, and his mother then altered the dates of the allegations to when the accuser would have been 17. The mother allegedly claimed to have records of texts between her son and Winters, but those texts were never provided. The son also claimed to have called and texted with Winters, but told authorities he wiped his phone prior to making the allegations.
Winters was also able to say in her lawsuit that she was at a volleyball tournament when one of the sexual encounters was alleged to have happened, and out of state at a wedding on another occasion. Winters’ attorney, Thomas Plofchan, told the Post that Winters was never questioned about her alibi, nor did police look into it before arresting her.
Police searches of Winters’ home and classroom revealed no evidence of a relationship between her and the student, her lawsuit said.
When Plofchan took Winters’ case, he presented evidence in early 2019 that Roque’s investigation was insufficient, and the charges against her were dropped.
Winters’ lawsuit went to trial earlier this month and lasted five days. At the end, it took a Loudoun jury less than two hours to find in favor of Winters, awarding her $5 million.
“I hope I can just start to rebuild,” Winters told the Post. “This definitely isn’t a cure-all. The information [about the arrest] is still out there.”