MIDLAND, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- Two Midland educators were arrested today on a warrant requested by the District Attorney’s Office, jail records show. Dana Ellis and Jared Lee have both been charged with Failure to Make a Required Child Abuse Report with Intent to Conceal.
The two were previously arrested in February along with three other Midland Christian School administrators after investigators with the Midland Police Department said they failed to report the alleged assault of a student with a baseball bat.
The five were “no-billed” by a Grand Jury in May, according to District Attorney Laura Nodolf. Meaning the Grand Jury did not think there was enough evidence to take the case to trial and the charges against the staffers were dismissed. However, Nodolf said they could be indicted later if new evidence was presented.
It is unclear if the charges facing the two educators today are related to that same incident nor is it clear if any other arrests will be made; we have requested more information from Nodolf’s office and will update this story as more information becomes available.
Both Lee and Ellis were released today on a $5,000 bond.
What happened after the five were “no-billed” in May? Here is what we do know:
In August, attorneys for the “Midland Christian Five”, as they were called in court documents, filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Midland, the Midland Police Department, and MPD Detective Jennie Alonzo alleging that “law enforcement authorities who- in a remarkable abuse of power- arrested these educators as retaliation,” the lawsuit read.
The lawsuit claimed the defendants violated their civil rights.
Attorney Rusty Hardin of Rusty Hardin & Associates, LLP, the firm representing the five, said, “This was one of the most egregious cases of irresponsible police action I’ve seen in decades of practicing law. This detective personally decided that these educational professionals were guilty, despite a complete lack of credible evidence and impeccable reputations. She then embarked on a course of conduct designed to ruin their careers.”
The lawsuit stated that the alleged sexual assault of a Freshman student was instead, “horseplay”, and that the reported victim denied that a sexual assault ever occurred.
In court documents, the attorney said things were blown out of proportion in a “bizarre and unfortunate game of telephone”. It was another student’s father who ultimately heard the rumor and contacted the police.
A probable cause affidavit released after the arrest of the administrators stated that the baseball student was sexually assaulted, through his clothes, with a baseball bat following practice. But school administrators said, after speaking with the students involved, that the truth surrounding the incident was not as extreme as the rumors. Even still, school officials administered the “highest form of punishment short of expulsion” against the sophomore involved.
“What happened here is that Midland Police had tunnel vision. They heard a false, unreliable report from a parent based on schoolhouse gossip and went with it,” Hardin said.
MPD investigators stated that the staff at Midland Christian School failed to report the assault and later tried to conceal the facts- this after the school said it would not release documentation pertaining to its own investigation into the matter unless investigators returned with a warrant.
The law firm contends that the detective involved “created an overall false impression” in her sworn statements that led to the issue of the search warrant and subsequent arrest warrants. The lawsuit also states that the detective’s misrepresentation of facts led to an elevated charge, rather than a misdemeanor Failure to Report the charges were elevated to Felony with Intent to Conceal.
The law firm stated in the documents that investigators failed to mention in the criminal complaint that the student involved underwent a SANE exam and that no physical trauma was found- in line with his statement to school officials that the incident wasn’t as extreme as the rumors initially indicated.
The lawsuit further alleged that the MPD detective leading the investigation denied the administrator’s requests to turn themselves in and instead orchestrated a “perp-walk” in front of the school in front of media and campus visitors.
The City responds:
Last month, The City filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit claiming the five “ignored their legal obligations to report the criminal conduct to law enforcement authorities.”
It also claimed that the detectives did have probable cause to arrest the five based on their failure to report, and that this arguable probable cause gives the officers qualified immunity.
Additionally, the motion filed by the City said, “The plaintiffs’ complaint mischaracterizes the nature of said assault as mere ‘horseplay,’ and the reported criminal conduct as mere unsubstantiated ‘rumors,’.
“The attack occurred; its existence is not a rumor. And the child who was assaulted is a real victim, not an alleged victim,” the motion stated.