An Alleged Theft Of Airpods Leads To A Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit

  • Amara Harris was accused of stealing AirPods while in high school and ticketed.
  • The student fought the ticket for years and won in a jury trial.
  • An investigation found Illinois schools used tickets as an alternative to discipline. 
  • Harris is now suing and accusing the city of violating her civil rights.

( – Amara Harris was a student at Naperville North High School in 2019 with plans to go to Spelman College. Then she was accused of stealing Apple AirPods. Five years later, Harris is suing.

The Alleged Theft

In 2019, Harris realized her AirPods were missing while she was at school. She decided to retrace her steps to try to find them. When she entered the school’s Learning Commons, she saw a pair of AirPods on the table. Harris told reporters she thought they were hers and took them.

Harris said she realized the serial number on the AirPods wasn’t the same as the pair she lost, so she turned them in to the school dean. A couple of weeks later, the school’s resource officer, who works for the Naperville Police Department, gave her a ticket for violating a town ordinance against theft. The fine was $100, but she refused to pay it.

According to reports, Harris said that she wasn’t going to pay the fine and admit to doing something that she didn’t do. She said it was a mix-up, not a theft. Naperville continued to prosecute the high school student, and in 2023, the case went to trial.

In August 2023, a six-person jury in Naperville determined the city had not proven she knowingly took the AirPods. During the trial, the resource officer, Jonathan Leon, admitted that he had no direct evidence proving Harris had stolen the earbuds. The jury found her not liable.

After the verdict, the Spelman College student said she felt “vindicated.” She said she was glad it was over and that she “maintained [her] innocence.”

Civil Rights Lawsuit

In May, almost a year after the trial, Harris filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against the city of Naperville, Leon, and his supervisor, Jonathan Pope.

Harris graduated from Spelman College days before she filed the lawsuit, accusing authorities of violating her civil rights, malicious prosecution, and racial discrimination. The suit asks for $20 million in compensatory damages and also for an unnamed amount of punitive damages.

In an interview with ProPublica, Harris said the city officials “were wrong, and they have to face consequences and be held accountable” for dragging the prosecution on for three and a half years.

Naperville City Attorney Mike DiSanto called the allegations “without merit” and said the city will “vigorously defend” itself.

Harris was one of many students across the state who were given municipal tickets for things like disorderly conduct and vaping. The tickets are often used as a form of punishment and are hard to fight. Some families have said they went into debt because of the tickets. State officials have taken action to stop the ticketing, telling school administrators to stop outsourcing discipline to police officers.

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