TEASER: Moore County Schools (Version 2)

Moore County Superior Court Judge James Webb handed down a $2 million civil judgment last week against a former Pinecrest High School resource officer accused of sexually abusing a student he was assigned to mentor.

That judgment effectively resolves a civil suit brought by the plaintiff last fall against Joshua M. Evans and the Moore County Board of Education. The dollar figure is based in part on the ongoing cost of psychiatric treatment and therapy over the plaintiff’s lifetime as a result of her experiences.

On top of the civil judgment, the plaintiff’s attorneys intend to seek a retrial on three sets of charges of sex with a student and crimes against nature that were dismissed late last year. The jury in a 2019 Superior Court trial could not reach a verdict on those charges, which were never retried.

The plaintiff testified in a hearing on Thursday that Evans lured her into sexual acts on several occasions during her sophomore and junior years at Pinecrest.

The legal judgment filed Thursday afternoon states that Evans started meeting with the plaintiff weekly in the middle of her freshman year, when Pinecrest placed him in charge of her safety following reports of bullying by other students.

A total of seven separate sexual encounters between Evans and the plaintiff spanning from April of 2016 to January of 2017, both in Evans’ office at Pinecrest and at his home in Aberdeen, are listed as findings of fact in the judgment.

The Pilot is withholding the plaintiff’s name because of her age, 16, at the time of the incidents. The Moore County Board of Education agreed in November to pay a $200,000 settlement on multiple civil complaints of negligence. That settlement closed the civil case against the school board and against Evans in his official capacity as a school resource officer.

Based on testimony in Thursday’s hearing, the judgment also lists as findings of fact details of the plaintiff’s struggles with her mental health since she reported the “improper sexual relationship with Defendant Evans” four years ago.

The sexual abuse caused her to suffer “depression, anxiety and emotional distress,” as she “struggled to get out of the toxic situation.”

The plaintiff testified that Evans threatened her with physical harm should she expose his conduct or the nature of their relationship. She has since been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder as a result of the repeated sexual abuse.

The judgement states that she is under continued psychiatric care, as well as individual and group therapy, and that the level of care she now requires constitutes a significant financial burden which will likely continue throughout her life.

Evans did not dispute testimony by the plaintiff, her mother and social worker. The judgment states that Evans did not appear in court last week or otherwise respond to the civil summons served in September.

Webb awarded the plaintiff $500,000 in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages based on “the undisputed facts in plaintiff’s complaint and the evidence presented by the plaintiff” of assault, battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

That ruling applies to Evans in his individual capacity, based on “willful, wanton, and malicious conduct.”

Criminal Charges

The plaintiff’s attorneys Thomas M. Van Camp and Joseph H. Karam pledged in a statement provided to The Pilot this week that they will also pursue reinstatement of Evans’ previously dismissed criminal charges.

“On behalf of L.P. and her family, we believe the court’s ruling sent a clear message that these types of heinous acts will not be tolerated in our community,” the statement reads.

”This family has been through very difficult times at the hands of Joshua M. Evans, and while this judgment is a step towards justice, the fight for justice in our criminal courts will continue. We look forward to working with District Attorney Mike Hardin and his office to ensure that Mr. Evans is charged and tried before a jury for his transgressions.”

Evans was arrested on Feb. 20, 2017 and charged with five counts of sex with a student. He was later indicted on additional charges of sexual battery, assault on a female and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.

He was tried in Superior Court in 2019, when a jury cleared him on changes of sex with a student and crimes against nature in two alleged incidents in May and December of 2016.

Evans was also tried on similar charges in three other incidents that the student said occurred in late December of 2016 and in January of 2017, which resulted in a mistrial after the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.

No movement was ever made to retry the case, and all remaining criminal charges against Evans were dismissed this past December in the final days of District Attorney Maureen Krueger’s term. Filings stated that the “state is not confident it is able to prove each element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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