Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson (copy)

Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson

A couple once charged over enrolling an ineligible student athlete and publicly implicated in larger human-trafficking allegations is suing Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson, former sheriff's spokesman Randy Jones and 10 unnamed deputies in federal court.

More than two years after filing them, the Alamance County District Attorney's Office dismissed charges of common law obstruction of justice and obtaining property by false pretense against Aris Lamont Hines, 40, and Brandi Kauilani Thomason, 36, formerly of Mebane, on July 6, according to court records, because the state could not "prove every element of the crimes charged beyond a reasonable doubt."

The couple's claims against the sheriff and his deputies include slander, malicious prosecution and violating their civil rights. They filed their suit Wednesday.

In May 2016, during the investigation into the enrollment of Kingsley Johnathan — known as Johnathan Kingsley while enrolled in Alamance-Burlington Schools — the sheriff held press conferences, made public statements and commented to news organizations voicing his suspicions that Hines and Thomason were involved in a larger, multi-state human-trafficking ring, that children were living in deplorable conditions in their Mebane home, and that investigators were searching for three girls it was alleged the couple tried unsuccessfully to enroll in ABSS.

They were never charged with human trafficking, and the girls were found in the Dominican Republic, New York and Texas later that month, just weeks after charges were first filed against the couple.

Hines still faces eight felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense in Robeson County, for which he has a June 3 court date.

The damage to their reputations "resulted in in great financial damage" to Hines and Thomason, according to their suit, forced them to leave North Carolina, and caused physical and psychological injury. They are seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

The suit does not mention the Nigerian football, basketball and soccer player the couple was charged with enrolling in Woodlawn Middle School and later Eastern Alamance High School, with what investigators alleged were false documents.

The 6-foot-plus, 220-pound Johnathan was purportedly a 15-year-old when he enrolled as an Eastern Alamance freshman. He was later ruled ineligible to have played in 2016, forcing the football team to forfeit all its 14 wins in 2015, the basketball team to forfeit 14 of its 29 wins, and Eastern to return $19,000 in playoff ticket sales to the state.

The following academic year, September 2016, Johnathan was enrolled as an 18-year-old senior at a private school in Baltimore. He is now a junior defensive lineman at Syracuse University.

©2019 Times-News (Burlington, N.C.)

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