COVINGTON, Ky. (CN) – A former high school teacher who was exonerated of charges that she had sex with a student has sued her prosecutor, claiming Kenton County Attorney Rob Sanders indicted her though he knew the allegations were bogus. She claims Sanders “acted with malice” in pursuit of “publicity, attention and redemption in how he handled a prior student/adult sex case.”
Nicole Howell says Sanders should not be granted absolute immunity for mismanaging her prosecution because “When a prosecutor violates the public trust, those destroyed in the wake of the abuse of power deserve their remedy.”
Howell claims in her federal complaint that when the Kentucky Supreme Court in 1993 implemented “absolute immunity for its prosecutors,” it also ruled that “absolute immunity does not shield the prosecutor for their investigative conduct before charges were filed.”
Howell’s complaint cites a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Pottawattamie County v. Harrington, which focuses “on the absolute immunity of prosecutors for conduct during the prosecutorial stages.” That case has been argued and a decision is expected by June 2010.
Sanders indicted Howell on March 19 this year, alleging first-degree sexual abuse, after a buy at Dayton High School falsely claimed that he and another student had had a “threesome” with her, according to the complaint.
Howell says Sanders pursued her despite his knowledge of a raft of facts that showed her innocence.
Among other things, she says Sanders knew that she had passed a polygraph test, that the student failed to identify her lower-back tattoo, and that there was no physical evidence. She says the prosecutor dismissed inconsistent statements from the student, who had failed to answer questions about her “naked body, like her pubic hair” and that a detective on the case acknowledged that the student is a “little prick”
Howell, who taught English and was an assistant cheerleading coach, was suspended and fired.
She says that “after a short deliberation time,” she was acquitted of the crime by a jury on Oct., 16, 2009.
Howell seeks damages for malicious prosecution, emotional distress and violations of the federal and states constitutions. She is represented by Eric Deters of Independence, Ky.