Updated May 26, 2022 - 1:20 pm
A former behavioral therapist is suing the city of North Las Vegas and the police detective who accused her of sexually abusing a student.
All charges were dropped against Amy Villarreal, 30, of Las Vegas, but a lawsuit filed Monday claims Villarreal suffered physical and mental anguish and was forced to leave the field she loved.
“Amy lost her career and her reputation, and spent months fighting charges that could have put her in prison for the rest of her life,” her attorney Jordan Marsh wrote in a statement.
In a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Wednesday, police spokesman Alexander Cuevas said the city of North Las Vegas does not comment on pending litigation.
Villarreal was arrested in September after an autistic student from Crescent Academy Therapy Center accused her of taking him from campus and assaulting him.
The woman worked in applied behavioral analysis at the school for a year and said the boy was not one of her clients, though they did see each other on campus because of the small program.
Marsh wrote in the lawsuit that North Las Vegas police Detective Jorge Correa did not thoroughly investigate the case and ignored a statement from the academy’s director that the teenager often became infatuated with teachers.
“Defendant Correa conducted a cursory investigation, ignored numerous red flags, made no attempt to corroborate or clarify the allegations, and bullied and lied to Amy in a futile effort to force her to confess to a crime she did not commit, before arresting her with no probable cause to believe she had committed a crime,” the lawsuit states.
Villarreal was arrested on sexual assault and lewdness charges. Prosecutors later opted to charge her with two counts of statutory sexual seduction and two counts of lewdness with a child.
After her preliminary hearing was delayed three times, the state declined to prosecute the case, according to court records.
The charges were dismissed in March, but the lawsuit indicates that she is still paying off the $15,000 bond and $25,000 in legal fees.
“People assume the police wouldn’t arrest someone for such a serious offense if they didn’t have a solid evidentiary basis to believe they committed the crime,” Marsh wrote in the statement to the Review-Journal. “But that’s not always the case, and it certainly wasn’t here. And Amy has been paying the price for that since her arrest.”