BY JOHN MONK
Seven months before former Richland County sheriff’s deputy Ben Fields made national news by pulling a student from her chair and tossing her in a Spring Valley High School classroom, Fields caused the unlawful arrest of an innocent woman who was helping another Spring Valley student, a lawsuit in federal court alleges.
Although Fields got an arrest warrant for the woman, Holly Johnson, a preschool teacher, on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a Richland County grand jury – without saying why – refused to indict her, the lawsuit said.
“The grand jury didn’t even find the bare minimum standard of probable cause in the arrest against my client,” said Johnson’s attorney, Eric Bland of Columbia.
The suit seeks unspecified actual and punitive damages and asks for a jury trial.
The three defendants that Johnson is suing – the Richland County sheriff’s department, the Richland School District 2 and Fields – will contest the case, according to legal papers. Defendants’ lawyers declined comment, saying the case is pending.
Sheriff Leon Lott, in a Friday interview, however, said his department internal affairs unit investigated Fields and found he acted within the law in the Johnson case. Not all facts have come out, Lott said.
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