More than two years after a Sierra College football player says he was roughed up by police and kicked off the team following an altercation outside a party, Rocklin officials have agreed to pay $94,000 to settle his lawsuit against them, the player’s lawyer says.
The settlement, which came without any admission of wrongdoing, ends a case in which Nebraska Huggins, an African American Sierra College student, claimed he was targeted by police because of his race and unfairly dumped from the team, effectively ending his college studies.
“His life clearly changed paths after this, and not in a way that he intended,” said Huggins’ attorney, Stewart Katz. “It destroyed the core of his conscious self-identity.
“He’s a nice kid who didn’t deserve that.”
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Rocklin police have denied wrongdoing in the case, and did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
The suit stemmed from a party at a Rocklin apartment complex in May 2014, when police were called about a disturbance from the end-of-semester celebration by students.
Huggins and his roommate were sitting and talking on a stairwell when police arrived and asked for access to their apartment, where a party was underway, according to federal court documents filed with the lawsuit.
The two young men initially resisted allowing police inside without a warrant, documents state, and a scuffle ensued that ended with Huggins and his roommate handcuffed and being driven to an empty, dark parking lot a mile away.
There, Huggins later told The Bee, police questioned him and made it clear he needed to answer their questions the way they wanted. He says he was told to say he had consumed a large amount of alcohol before the incident, something Huggins later said wasn’t true because he does not drink.
Huggins, who had never been in trouble with the law before, spent 23 hours in jail on charges of resisting arrest, obstructing a police officer and being drunk in public.
Charges against Huggins and his roommate later were dropped, but after Huggins was released he found a text message on his phone from football coach Ben Noonan, telling him to call.
Noonan had been informed by Rocklin police about the arrest through an email and kicked Huggins off the team without allowing Huggins to tell his version of events, Huggins said after his suit was filed.
Noonan later denied that in a deposition, saying Huggins was very defensive when they spoke.
Huggins later sued the coach and Sierra College, as well, but that suit was dropped earlier this year.
Huggins, who had hoped one day to play football at a major college program and eventually become a police officer, since has moved to Chico, where he works for a youth-recreation program and is caring for his infant son.