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Huntington University federal count dismissed, lawyer says 22 counts to move forward in state court

Rebecca Green

A federal judge dismissed the federal portion of the lawsuit filed by multiple Huntington University athletes accusing their coach, now former coach Nicholas Johnson, of systemic sexual assault and harassment and the university of negligence in allowing it to happen.

The federal portion was a Title IX claim that said the university was negligent because the athletes were women. According to court documents, Federal District Court Judge Holly Brady said, “Because the Court finds that the Plaintiffs have not plausibly pled facts that could establish ‘actual notice’ by an ‘appropriate person’ as Title IX requires, the University Defendants’ motion to dismiss the Title IX claim will be granted.”

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination by recipients of federal education funding, like Huntington University. That law states that defendants can only be held liable for Title IX violations if someone “with authority to institute corrective measures” had “actual notice of, and were deliberately indifferent to the employee’s misconduct.” Brady ruled attorney Jonathan Little and his clients did not prove that with the evidence they presented.

Little said this ruling would not change the focus of the case.

“The goals are to still hold Nick Johnson and Huntington University accountable for their just abysmal failures here,” Little said.

Brady gave Little until Dec. 6 to amend the Title IX complaint before the suit moves back to State Court. Little said the focus is now on that move.

“The other 22 counts of the complaint for negligence against Huntington for example or battery against Nick Johnson or negligence against his wife or what have you. Those are still very much alive,” Johnson said. “So, at the end of the day, I feel pretty good that 22 of 23 of my claims are still ongoing and heading to trial.”

Little said he doesn’t understand how Brady felt he did not prove Huntington University’s liability in the Title IX complaint specifically because of a meeting between Johnson, his boss at Huntington University, a high school coach and a police officer.

“In that meeting, which was set up to discuss recruiting violations, and girls going in and out of Nick Johnson’s home including a young lady named Addy Wylie. That was the purpose of the meeting, but during the meeting, Nick Johnson…bizarrely mentions that he has been accused of engaging in oral copulation with Addy Wylie, being fellated by her when she’s a minor,” Little said. “So, my argument is if you’re an athletic director or you’re Nick Johnson’s boss or the police, that should raise alarm bells.”

In her ruling, Brady said that recount of the meeting was incorrect. Brady said the police report indicated only the Huntington North High School athletic director was at the meeting with Johnson. She said the meeting did not involve any of the plaintiffs “nor did it involve any sexual misconduct by Johnson towards the Plaintiffs or any other female student at the University,” according to Brady’s ruling.

Little said he plans to move forward with 22 counts in the lawsuit against Nicholas Johnson and Huntington University in state court.

Tony Sandleben joined the WBOI News team in September of 2022.