A lawsuit filed in Wilkes Superior Court claims a man defamed a high school student by falsely implicating him in a sexual assault that the suit said didn’t occur.
Attorney Jay Vannoy of North Wilkesboro filed the suit Thursday against Jovan Miller on behalf of his client, Andrew James Call, 18.
Call and Miller’s 15-year-old son were involved in an April 22 incident in a Wilkes Central High School locker room that resulted in Call, another 18-year-old male and three juvenile males (two age 16 and one 15) being charged with simple assault. All six were students at the school then.
The suit said the students were in the locker room when Miller’s son pulled down his pants and “mooned” the other boys while they were “playing around.”
It also said that while the teens were “wrestling around on the locker room floor,” another student pretended to stick a broomstick in the rectal area of Miller’s son while he was wearing shorts and other clothes. Call was standing to the side watching and wasn’t touching Miller’s son when the other student had the broom, it stated.
The suit said that when a teacher in a third period class heard Miller’s son and other students talking about a video of the locker room incident posted on Snapchat or another social media by a student in the locker room, the teacher took the video to Wilkes Central administrators.
The suit said that when administrators called all students in the locker room on the video and asked them to write down what happened, Miller’s son wrote that they were “just horse-playing around.” The suit said the other students wrote that they were playing around, no one meant to hurt Miller’s son and they were all friends.
The suit said that when school administrators questioned Miller’s son the same day, he stated that he wasn’t hurt, didn’t want his friends getting into trouble and was only upset about the video being recorded and posted on social media. It said that when administrators called Miller on April 22 and he discussed the matter with them at the school, Miller didn’t accuse students of assaulting his son in any way.
The suit said that despite his son saying the April 22 incident was horseplay and that he wasn’t upset about it or hurt, Miller “published to WXII News on July 9… a story that his son had been sexually abused when he knew that the broomstick did not penetrate his son.” It said Miller’s publication, through WXII, implicating Call in a sexual assault was patently false.
The suit said Miller falsely stated he didn’t know why his son was attacked because Miller’s son and the other students told Wilkes Central administrators that it was horseplay “and that it happened because they were all just playing and (Miller’s son) was running around in the locker room with his pants down.”
It said Miller falsely told WXII that his son hadn’t said if the broomstick penetrated his bottom because Miller told Deputy Dakota Becerra, Wilkes Central’s school resource officer, that this didn’t occur. It also said Miller falsely told WXII that Dr. Dion Stocks, Wilkes Central principal, never contacted authorities, didn’t inform parents of the incident and did nothing to stop students from sharing the video.
Statements published by Miller through WXII that accuse Call of a crime and an offense involving moral turpitude are false and therefore slanderous, the suit claims.
It said that because statements made by Miller about Call are defamatory, Call is entitled to over $25,000 in compensatory damages. The suit said that because Miller intentionally and maliciously made defamatory statements that he knew or should have known would damage Call and other students, Call is entitled to over $25,000 in punitive damages. The suit also seeks reasonable attorney fees from Miller.
Attorney Bakari Sellers of Columbia, S.C., representing Miller, hadn’t seen the defamation lawsuit when interviewed Friday, but said Miller hasn’t mentioned Call’s name to the media.
“My client (Miller) stated very clearly that he is not trying to ruin these kids’ lives, but that they need to learn that this (what happened in the locker room) isn’t right,” said Seller.
Miller views the locker room incident as sexual assault on his son and is disappointed that charges more serious than simple assault weren’t filed, said Sellers, adding that Miller’s son is in recover therapy.
Sellers called the defamation suit frivolous, asinine and rude. “It’s a sad time and place when a victim in an assault is sued by a plaintiff.”
Sellers said that before the defamation suit was filed, he already had planned to sue the Wilkes County Schools and Wilkes Central High School for negligence over what occurred in the locker room in federal or state court.
Vannoy said in an interview that he reviewed written results of the sheriff’s office investigation and written statements of Becerra, school officials and students involved before filing the defamation suit. He said the evidence proves that there was no sexual assault. Vannoy said that as Call’s attorney, he formally requested this information from the district attorney’s office.
As stated in an earlier article, Chief Deputy Logan Kerr of the sheriff’s office told the Wilkes Journal-Patriot that Miller reported the incident to the sheriff’s office and met with Wilkes Central’s school resource officer at the school on April 23. This was reported in an earlier article, but Sellers said he wanted to clarify that Miller hasn’t met with anyone from the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office.