West Milton, police respond to school custodian’s unlawful arrest lawsuit

Former West Milton school custodian Jerry North is suing after he was charged with the rape of a student who later admitted he made up the allegations

DAYTON — The village of West Milton and some of its police have filed their answer to a federal lawsuit, in which a school custodian sued them for unlawful arrest after an alleged child rape victim recanted claims against the custodian.

The village, along with police Chief Doyle Wright and West Milton officers James Leonard and Jason Stevens, in the answer deny that their actions caused Jerry North to be unlawfully arrested, among other claims that were filed in U.S. District Court in Dayton.

“The defendants, with knowledge that they lacked evidence sufficient to arrest, unlawfully arrested, incarcerated, maliciously prosecuted and defamed plaintiff,” Jerry North’s lawsuit claims. “The defendants conspired to do these acts in the hope that the media attention from the plaintiff ‘s arrest and public humiliation would be enough to prompt witnesses to come forward and provide support for the baseless charges,” North’s lawsuit continues. “When no evidence materialized, the police officers falsified information in the official report to make it appear that it had. This is an unlawful misuse of police power and has harmed plaintiff physically, emotionally and financially.”

In addressing many of the claims, the village and police wrote in the answer that “body cam footage (from cameras worn by police) speaks for itself.” A similar defense that the recording speaks for itself was made for an interview that social worker Jennifer Knisley conducted of the accusing child, on behalf of police. Knisley also was named in North’s lawsuit, along with the parents of the boy who made the allegations against North.

Among defenses claimed by the village and police is that they are entitled to immunity from the claims.

North was arrested in May 2023 and accused of sexual misconduct occurring between 2018 and 2021, with a boy who claimed he had been sexually molested. North pleaded not guilty to charges of rape, gross sexual imposition and intimidation of a victim or witness.

He was scheduled to go on trial in January, but two days before court proceedings were to begin, the boy, now age 11, told prosecutors and victim advocates that he fabricated the allegations.

North’s lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages.

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