AURORA, Colo. — An Arapahoe County District Court judge last month awarded $3 million to the Aurora City councilwoman who claimed in a lawsuit that false accusations of child abuse were made against her because she was critical of then-Police Chief Vanessa Wilson.
Danielle Jurinsky filed the lawsuit in August against Robin Niceta, the onetime partner of Wilson. In the lawsuit, Jurinsky accused Niceta of "baselessly, falsely and unconstitutionally" separating or trying to separate children from their parents in her role as a social worker for the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services (DHS).
Niceta faces criminal charges and is accused of filing a false child abuse claim against Jurinsky last year. Jurinsky previously said she believed the report was made in retaliation for her critical comments about Wilson.
A DHS investigation determined Jurinsky did not do anything wrong, and the case was closed last February, according to Aurora Police. Niceta resigned from her position with DHS in May and was charged in the case with the following:
- Attempt to influence a public servant
- False report child abuse
She has pleaded not guilty and has a trial set for May.
In her Dec. 23 ruling, Judge Elizabeth Beebe Volz called Niceta's conduct "willful and wanton" and said it was done with "actual malice." She went on to say that it was "especially egregious" because the accusations were made by a person who knew that the report could result in the possible separation of children from their parents.
Beebe Volz said in her Order of Judgment that she awarded $100,000 for each of the 15 days Jurinsky was under investigation by DHS, for a total of $1.5 million in compensatory damages. She awarded another $1.5 million in exemplary damages.
The judge said the award was made in part "to send a message that this kind of conduct cannot and should not be tolerated."
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