Former Naperville North student files civil rights lawsuit against city of Naperville

Exterior image of Naperville City Hall with fountain in foreground
Donate Today

A former Naperville North High School student has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Naperville and two police officers, after winning a court battle against a police ticket that accused her of stealing a classmate’s AirPods.

Amara Harris filed suit on Tuesday, asking for $20 million in compensatory damages.

Lawsuit claims Harris’ civil rights were violated

As reported by CBS News Chicago, the lawsuit alleges “that the City of Naperville abused process willfully, maliciously prosecuted Amara Harris, violated her civil rights, and inflicted intentionally emotional stress because they did not want to admit they were wrong.”

Ticket over alleged AirPods theft leads to jury trial

Amara Harris was 17 when, in 2019, a school resource officer assigned to Naperville North High School issued her a ticket claiming she took another student’s AirPods. Harris said she had picked them up accidentally, thinking they were her own.

The ticket eventually led to a jury trial, marking the first time in at least a decade that a case involving the violation of a Naperville ordinance went to trial.

Harris emerged victorious and was found not liable.

Defendants in case include city of Naperville, two police officers

Named in the federal lawsuit as defendants are the city of Naperville; Juan Leon, the school resource officer who gave her the ticket; and Jonathan Pope, who was Leon’s supervisor at the time.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, both Pope and Leon are still employed by the Naperville Police Department.

Harris is now 21, and graduated from Spelman College earlier this week, with a degree in international studies.

She’s hoping to help enact policy change, to prohibit this type of student ticketing.

City of Naperville response

The City of Naperville issued the following response to CBS News Chicago in regards to the lawsuit:

“The City of Naperville is aware of the lawsuit filed against the City and two employees of the Naperville Police Department, and we believe the allegations are without merit. The police officers involved in this matter relied upon independent eyewitness statements from school officials and students in issuing the theft citation to Ms. Harris. Further, prior to trial, the court denied Ms. Harris’ motion to suppress evidence, motion to dismiss, and motion for a directed verdict which further supports the evidentiary basis for issuing the citation. The fact that the jury acquitted Ms. Harris does not negate the factual basis for the actions of the City and its officers. The Naperville Police Department is an accredited law enforcement agency that provides significant training to its staff and maintains the highest standards of integrity which the City maintains were met in this matter. The City and its officers therefore are prepared to vigorously defend this lawsuit.”

If you have a story idea, we want to hear from you!