Two women allege in a federal lawsuit that a former Huntington police officer illegally pulled them over two years ago after they left a nightclub and sexually assaulted them.
The lawsuit also names the City of Huntington as a defendant and alleges it was “put on notice” about problems with officer Joshua Nield the year before the alleged assaults took place.
A wrongful death lawsuit filed against Nield and the city in federal court in 2015 claims Nield killed a 66-year-old woman who was allegedly being combative by using excessive force and holding her facedown on a hospital floor.
Annie Earle died at St. Mary’s Medical Center in January 2014. Nield was terminated the following year.
A Cabell County grand jury refused to indict Nield in 2014 over Earle’s death, according to the Huntington Herald-Dispatch newspaper.
The newspaper also reported that last year during Nield’s deposition in the lawsuit related to the death of Earle, he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when asked about what police policy violations led to his termination. He had worked as an officer in Huntington since 2008. Attorneys from the Weston Law Office in Huntington filed the lawsuit on behalf of Earle’s estate.
In dealing with the lawsuit related to Earle’s death, the city disclosed in court documents that Nield was being investigated for allegations of sexual assault. However, lawyers for the city refused to turn over specific information related to the investigation, citing “real and valid defenses,” Nield might have to fight the claims, such as the alleged assaults could have actually been consensual.
The women who filed the lawsuit last week are both identified in the lawsuit only by their initials. They are both from Wayne County but had gone to the Stonewall nightclub in Huntington on March 14, 2015.
Nield, who was eventually fired from the Huntington force, allegedly yelled to the women as they walked into Stonewall and pulled them over when they left the club.
Nield allegedly threatened the women with arrest if they refused to do as he said.
The former officer allegedly had the women get into the front seat of his police cruiser and assaulted them before driving around the city at a high rate of speed.
The women claim Nield stopped twice and assaulted them at both locations before returning them to their vehicle.
The lawsuit claims the women were subject to assault, false arrest and imprisonment, and that several of their constitutional rights have been violated. The city should be held responsible for negligent supervision, wrote Huntington lawyer Timothy Eves, who represents the women.
“Defendant City of Huntington negligently disregarded the obvious risks, and allowed Defendant Nield to operate an HPD patrol car and roam the streets in a college town near dorms and bars where this sexual predator could encounter intoxicated co-eds predominately during the overnight hours when witnesses were sparse, under the actual and apparent authority of the Huntington Police Department where he had free reign to unlawfully stalk, stop, arrest, search, and physically and sexually assault young females, including Plaintiffs,” Eves wrote in the complaint.
Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers has been assigned the lawsuit against Nield over the assault allegations. He will also preside in the case filed over Earle’s death. It is set for trial later this year.
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