Home Crime Press Release on $5 Million Verdict Against Loudoun Sheriff and Deputy

Press Release on $5 Million Verdict Against Loudoun Sheriff and Deputy

“The jury’s verdict vindicates Kim Winters, a wrongfully accused teacher."

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From the Westlake Legal Group:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

“The jury’s verdict vindicates Kim Winters, a wrongfully accused teacher.  More importantly, it validates the citizens’ willingness to hold law enforcement accountable.  Law enforcement yields great power.  They also have great responsibility. Reckless charges can ruin reputations and destroy lives.  This is a step in giving Kim Winters her life back.”

–Thomas K. Plofchan, Jr., Westlake Legal Group, Attorney for Kim Winters.

On February 10, 2023, after 5 days of trial, a Loudoun County jury of five men and two women  awarded former Loudoun County school teacher Kimberly Winters $5 million in damages in her malicious prosecution case against Sheriff Michael Chapman and Deputy Peter Roque. In just over two hours, the jury found that Roque acted maliciously.  The award included $350,000 of punitive damages.  Winters was represented by Thomas K. Plofchan, Jr. and Jacqueline Kramer of Westlake Legal Group.

In November 2018, Roque brought charges against Winters alleging that between October 1, 2017 and November 2, 2017, she had sexual intercourse on 3-4 occasions with a 17 year old former student in her home while she was in a custodial or supervisory relationship.  In February 2019, the charges were dropped by the Commonwealth Attorney after a finding that the allegations could not be credibly corroborated.

Winters brought her malicious prosecution charge in order to hold Roque and Sheriff Chapman accountable for disregarding her rights by failing to investigate, and prosecuting on the mere allegations of a “confused and conflicted” 18 year old and his mother who presented an unbelievable, unsubstantiated, and inconsistent story.  In closing argument during the trial, Roque’s attorney acknowledged that the complainant was a “confused and conflicted individual.”  Roque’s malicious actions, Ms. Winters testified, “ruined her life.”

The complainant and his mother gave interviews on three separate occasions.   The complainant provided multiple, different dates for when he allegedly had sex with Winters. The complainant acknowledged that he had no proof to offer the detective “other than his word.” Winters established at trial that a reasonable person would not have brought the charges based on the information known to Roque.  She further established that the complainant’s stories were inconsistent and unbelievable, and that Roque did not substantiate any of the allegations, and ignored contrary evidence, prior to bringing the charges.

At trial, Winters established that prior to seeking the arrest warrant, Roque:

  1. did not subpoena the cell carrier records of the complainant, his mother, or Winters;
  2. did not identify or interview any of the complainant’s friends to verify his stories despite being told that his friends knew of his activities;
  3. did not interview Winters or her family to determine the existence of an alibi and whether the stories could be credible;
  4. did not interview Winters’ co-workers or school administrative personnel;
  5. did not visit the school or obtain any of the security videos maintained by the school in an attempt to verify the stories;
  6. did not interview any of Winters’ neighbors to see if they could verify the complainant’s alleged “hundreds” of visits to her home;
  7. did not search her home;
  8. did not search her school room;
  9. did not obtain the mother’s laptop which allegedly contained all the phone and text records (the mother later stated she was “bluffing” about this claim);
  10. did not review any phone location data from the complainant’s phone;
  11. did not call the complainant’s attorney to explore a motivation to lie in order to sue Loudoun County Schools; and
  12. did not do any investigation of the complainant’s mental health.

Roque indicated that he did not examine the report of the contents of the complainant’s cell phone except to look for photos.  That report showed no texts, MMS messages, or phone calls between the two during the two months before charges, or any communication in 2017, let alone the time period when the alleged sex occurred.

Roque also acknowledged that he never obtained any documentation or other proof that could corroborate any allegation that the complainant had ever been to Winters house in 2017, let alone that they had sexual relations.

Winters also established that Roque lied on his police report, informing his superiors and the Commonwealth Attorney that the complainant confirmed the alleged dates of calls and texts alleged by his mother, when no such confirmation had been made.

Most egregiously, Winters established that Detective Roque lied to the Magistrate when seeking the arrest warrant, stating falsely in his written affidavit that “witnesses’ statements were corroborated by phone records.”  Winters established this as an outright lie as no phone records were ever subpoenaed until almost a week after Winters’ arrest and no phone records were ever obtained corroborating any sexual activity with a minor.

After Roque obtained the warrant for her arrest, Winters was arrested, stripped searched, forbidden from being in contact with minors.  More importantly, her mugshot and the charges were plastered all over the media, to include print and television.

Winters testified that Roque’s maliciously indifferent action of seeking an arrest without investigation and his ignoring of inconsistencies, illegally disregarded her rights and ruined her life.  “I lost all of my friends. I lost my career.  No one would hire me.  My life has been ruined.  Flat-out ruined.  Roque labelled me as a pedophile.”

Winters evidence established her economic loss at more than $2 million. The jury also determined that Roque acted with actual malice and awarded the maximum permitted in Virginia for punitive damages, $350,000.  The jury verdict also provides compensation for reimbursement of expenses associated with defending the criminal and damages for humiliation, embarrassment, loss of reputation, physical pain and suffering.

Winters attributes the jury’s unusually quick verdict return to the strength of her case.

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Summary of Facts

In November 2018, Deputy Roque brought charges against Winters alleging that between October 1, 2017 and November 2, 2017, she had sexual intercourse on 3-4 occasions with a 17 year old former student in her home while she was in a custodial or supervisory relationship.  In February 2019, the charges were dropped by the Commonwealth Attorney after a finding that the allegations could not be credibly corroborated.

Winters brought her malicious prosecution charge in order to hold Roque and Sheriff Chapman accountable for disregarding her rights by failing to investigate, and prosecuting on the mere allegations of a “confused and conflicted” 18 year old and his mother who presented an unbelievable, unsubstantiated, and inconsistent story.  In closing argument during the trial, Roque’s attorney acknowledged that the complainant was a “confused and conflicted individual.”  Roque’s malicious actions, Ms. Winters testified, “ruined her life.”

The Original Allegations

Ms. Winters’ accuser first went to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s office on October 24, 2018, reporting to the Sheriff’s office that during the spring of his senior year in high school, when he was 18, he began a sexual relationship with Winters in her home.  During the interview, he reported that he texted and called Winters hundreds of times and that the two had hundreds of sexual encounters, and engaged in “freaky” behavior.  He boasted that he “owned” Winters’ body.  He claimed sexual encounters lasting six hours at a time. He also alleged that the teachers and students at Park View High School could verify his alleged relationship with Winters as he daily walked her to and from her car, routinely brought her breakfast and lunch, and brought her chocolate covered strawberries. However, he openly admitted he had no proof to offer Detective Roque because he had “wiped his phone” the week before approaching law enforcement.  In her interview, his mother told Roque that she had records of all the phone calls, emails, and text messages on her laptop at home.

Based solely on the October 24, 2018 reporting, Roque originally determined no crime was committed because the complainant was a legal adult.  However, upon learning of this determination, the accuser and his mother returned to Roque one week later and changed his story, now claiming the alleged sexual relationship began the month before his 18th birthday, in October 2017. However,  again he could provide no evidence of phone calls or text messages or ever having been in Winter’s residence during that time period.

Malicious Prosecution

Prior to bringing the charges against Ms. Winters, Roque failed to investigate numerous leads that could have easily identified exculpatory evidence and challenged the accuser’s credibility. Although Roque obtained the complainant’s cell phone for analysis, he did no investigation other than speak to the complainant’s mother, who accompanied him on both visits to LCSO. On the second visit, the mother purported to give Roque a copy of an alleged text message she allegedly sent Winters three weeks earlier allegedly addressing the relationship—despite also stating that she had only found out about the alleged sexual relationship in the previous week.  The accuser’s mother did not explain this inconsistency in her timing and provided no proof of any text being sent or received; further, the date of the alleged text did not match the dates the complainant gave of alleged communications with Winters. The mother acknowledged that she had no response from Winters to the alleged text.

Despite these blatant and obvious inconsistencies, Roque took no action to further investigate the allegations.  He failed to interview any other persons alleged by the accuser of being able to corroborate his story, and acknowledged “taking the mother at her word” before formally charging Ms. Winters with these career-ending and life-altering charges.

At trial, Winters established, and the jury confirmed through its verdict, that Roque improperly disregarded the factual inconsistencies of the complainant’s multiple stories.  Winters also established that prior to obtaining the arrest warrant Roque:

  1. did not subpoena the cell carrier records of the complainant, his mother, or Winters;
  2. did not identify or interview any of the complainant’s friends to verify his stories despite being told that his friends knew of his activities;
  3. did not interview Winters or her family to determine the existence of an alibi and whether the stories could be credible;
  4. did not interview Winters’ co-workers or school administrative personnel;
  5. did not visit the school or obtain any of the security videos maintained by the school in an attempt to verify the stories;
  6. did not interview any of Winters’ neighbors to see if they could verify the complainant’s alleged “hundreds” of visits to her home;
  7. did not search her home;
  8. did not search her school room;
  9. did not obtain the mother’s laptop or otherwise attempt to obtain the alleged records of calls or texts;
  10. did not obtain any official record to substantiate the mother’s alleged text message;
  11. did not review any phone location data from the complainant’s phone;
  12. did not call the complainant’s attorney to explore a motivation to lie in order to sue Loudoun County Schools; and
  13. did not do any investigation of the complainant’s mental health.

Additionally Roque indicated that he did not examine the report of the complainant’s cell phone except to look for photos.  The report showed no texts, MMS messages, or phone calls between the two during the two months before charges, or any communication in 2017, let alone when the alleged sex supposedly occurred.

During the trial, Roque also acknowledged that he never obtained any documentation or other proof of hundreds of texts or phone calls in October of 2017 or any other evidence that could corroborate any allegation that the complainant had ever been to Winters house in 2017, let alone that they had sexual relations.

Ms. Winters also established that Roque lied on his police report, informing his superiors and the Commonwealth Attorney that the complainant confirmed the alleged dates of calls and texts alleged by his mother, when no such confirmation had been made.

Subsequent searches of Winters’ classroom and home produced no evidence supporting the allegations charges brought by Detective Roque, including no evidence of Winters having a sexual relationship with the complainant in October 2017.  Subsequent subpoenas of the complainant’s phone records revealed no communications during the time of the alleged sexual activity.  Most egregiously, after the arrest–when she was asked to produce the records from her laptop—the mother informed Roque that she had been “bluffing.”  Based on the total lack of evidence, the Commonwealth Attorney dismissed the case. In February 2019.

Her Day in Court

After Roque’s false statements were used to obtain the warrant for her arrest, Winters was arrested, stripped searched, and forbidden from being in contact with minors.  More importantly, her mugshot and the charges were plastered all over the media, to include print and television., irreparably damaging her reputation and livelihood.

Last week, Ms. Winters testified that Roque’s maliciously indifferent arrest without investigation, and his actions directly ignoring significant inconsistencies in the accuser’s and his mother’s interviews, illegally disregarded her rights and ruined her life.  “I lost all of my friends. I lost my career.  No one would hire me.  My life has been ruined.  Flat-out ruined.  Roque labelled me as a pedophile.”

During trial, Winters elicited the testimony of her therapist who attributed Winters’ post-traumatic stress and anxiety to Detective Roque’s bringing of the warrant.  Winters did not seek damages resulting from longer working as a teacher, but sought damages for the reputational damage created by the publicity from the malicious arrest, which has prevented her from obtaining equivalent employment. Winters’ evidence established her economic loss at more than $2 million.

In addition to economic loss, Winters’ asked the jury to determine that Detective Roque acted with actual malice and to award her the maximum amount of punitive damages permitted in Virginia, $350,000.  The jury did.  She sought reimbursement for her expenses associated with defending her from the charge.  She also sought damages for humiliation, embarrassment, loss of reputation, physical pain and suffering. The jury’s determined that Detective Roque disregarding of Winters’ right to a thorough investigation and his misrepresentation to his superiors and the Commonwealth Attorney, and his lying to the magistrate were malicious.

Winters attributes the jury’s unusually quick verdict return to the strength of her case.

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