A Circuit Court judge has allowed former Purcellville Police officer Kristopher Fraley’s lawsuit against the town to proceed toward trial in a limited capacity.
On Aug. 4, 2020, Fraley filed a lawsuit against the town—as well as former interim town manager Alex Vanegas, former town human resources consultant Georgia Nuckolls, former acting police chief Joe Schroeck, former police officer Clark McDaniel, Darryl DeBow and his company, Northern Virginia Pre-Employment and Polygraph Services—for the effects he suffered when he was suspended from duty for 10 months in late 2017 to mid-2018.
He has sued all defendants for common law conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment; the town and Vanegas for negligent contracting and retention; the town for violating a Virginia code that makes it unlawful for a government agency to discriminate or retaliate against an employee of that agency if a complaint is made against another agency employee in good faith; Nuckolls and DeBow and his company for tortious interference with an employment contract; and DeBow and his company for negligence.
Fraley is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages via seven allegations and $350,000 in punitive damages via six of those counts, and demands a jury trial.
Since filing the lawsuit, all defendants filed pleas in bar asserting the statute of limitations should restrict Fraley’s lawsuit from moving forward.
According to case documents, they claimed negligent contracting and retention, common law conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and false imprisonment are all subject to two-year statutes of limitations.
The defendants argued that Fraley had until October 2019 to file the lawsuit. Fraley responded to those pleas by arguing that the statute of limitations was tolled while his original lawsuit, which he filed in September 2019, moved forward. That suit moved to federal court in early 2020 and was dismissed in May 2020.
Under Virginia law, the statute of limitations is tolled if “a plaintiff suffers a voluntary nonsuit,” even if that nonsuit occurs in federal court.
On April 6, 2021, Circuit Court Judge Douglas Fleming, Jr. sustained some of those pleas and overruled others. DeBow, McDaniel and the town have since objected to Fleming’s order.
The case will next appear before a judge on May 3 for pretrial motions.
The events of the case go back to August 2017, when Vanegas hired Nuckolls to help with an investigation into Police Chief Cynthia McAlister after complaints arose from several officers about her management of the department. Fraley in his lawsuit claims Vanegas conspired with Town Council members who were opposed to McAlister and sought her removal. Fraley claims Vanegas “was promised to be named permanent town manager in exchange for getting rid of McAlister.”
Fraley alleges that when he told Vanegas and Nuckolls that McDaniel was circulating a rumor that McAlister was having an affair with another police officer, he was forced to sit for a polygraph test that was rigged to demonstrate untruthfulness, and which resulted in his suspension. McAlister was also fired around that time.
Soon after, the town learned that Nuckolls and Vanegas were involved in a romantic relationship, at which point the town hired the law firm of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker to conduct a new investigation. That firm found there were serious flaws in Vanegas’ and Nuckolls’ investigation.
Fraley and McAlister were both reinstated Aug. 1, 2018.
But Fraley claims the town and its employees and contractors caused him to suffer professionally and personally, hindering his ability to obtain employment with other law enforcement agencies and causing him to suffer from high blood pressure, insomnia, nightmares, depression, suicidal ideations and alcoholism.
The town on Aug. 12, 2020, issued a statement, denying Fraley’s allegations and asserting that it would “vigorously defend” the lawsuit.