Huntington University announces external review amid lawsuit

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Huntington University (IL file photo)

As Huntington University faces a federal civil lawsuit filed on behalf of two former cross-country runners, the university says it has launched an external review.

The lawsuit, filed last month, alleges abuse, sexual misconduct and doping by former coach Nicholas Johnson.

In the lawsuit, runners Hannah Stoffel and Emma Wilson allege criminal battery by Johnson, as well as emotional and physical abuse. He is also accused of “injecting unknown substances into their bodies.”

In a statement on its website dated Oct. 16, university leaders said they were “devastated and heartbroken” to learn of the allegations.

“These allegations are not only disturbing, but also antithetical to everything we stand for,” the statement reads.

The university said Johnson was fired in December 2020 after learning of unrelated allegations. His wife, Lauren Johnson, and another coach, Curtis Hines, are also named as defendants in the suit.

Huntington said they were placed on administrative leave on Oct. 6 and “will no longer be affiliated with the University’s women’s running program.”

The university said it has hired law firm Lathrop GPM to conduct an external review of its Title IX and sexual misconduct policies and procedures.

“The review will also examine the supportive measures used to protect all students, and to promote a culture of trust, integrity, and safety,” the statement said. “University leadership and the board of trustees have pledged their full cooperation.”

WPTA-TV reported in February that Johnson was sentenced to 30 days in jail after pleading guilty to identity deception. He was accused of using a phony email account to communicate with a child and taking her out of state without her parents’ knowledge. He had also faced charges of child seduction and kidnapping.

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