CROSSING THE LINE: Attorney representing former Huntington University athletes detail abuse allegations

Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 8:05 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Some former runners from the Huntington University’s women’s cross county program are accusing their former coach of sexual abuse and a doping scheme.

An article from the IndyStar is shedding light on the alleged “cult-like” atmosphere around the former coach of Huntington University’s Cross Country program. An investigative report published by the IndyStar on Oct. 4 references details from a 33-page federal civil lawsuit and details from several interviews with former runners and those familiar with the program.

ABC21′s Digging Deeper reporter Karli VanCleave talked to the attorney representing the former student athletes about the lawsuit. Jonathan Little says he filed the case on Friday and has been find out more information as the case became public.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of runners Hannah Stoffel and Emma Wilson, alleges criminal battery by coach Johnson. The report says the allegations also include emotional and physical abuse, sex between Johnson and two of his student-athletes, and “pressure to take pills and injections—sometimes forcibly—containing unidentified substances.”

The lawsuit cites Nicholas Johnson, Lauren Johnson, Huntington University, Huntington University Board of Trustees, Curtis Hines and John Does 1-50 as the defendants in the case. Little says the university failed to protect the plaintiffs from the ongoing abuse.

WPTA reported in February that the former coach, Nicholas Johnson, was sentenced to spend 30 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to identity deception. Johnson had also previously faced two counts of child seduction and one count of kidnapping in the case following accusations that he used a phony email account to communicate with a child and took the victim out of state without her parents’ knowledge.

Huntington University officials did not respond to IndyStar’s request for comment in their coverage, and Johnson’s lawyer said she had “no comment.”

ABC21 reached out to the university for comment and an interview request as well. They only shared this statement:

“We are aware that two former students have brought a civil suit against the University for the actions of a former coach and two current employees who served as part-time coaches for the program during that time. The University and the board of trustees are also named in the suit. The coach in question was dismissed in December of 2020.The University the University has and continues to provide a variety of opportunities and directed avenues for students who were impacted to be heard, obtain counseling services, and make Title IX inquiries. Huntington University remains committed to providing a workplace and educational environment, as well as other benefits, programs, and activities, that are free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.” - Huntington University

No criminal charges have been filed in the investigation, but police say an investigation is ongoing.