• Whistleblower 9: Woman seeks justice after attack

    By: Paul Boyd

    Updated:

    Update: This story was originally published on 10/11/2016. Since then, Billy Nippert's not guilty verdicts have been expunged from his record.

    Original story:

    A Charlotte woman is questioning the integrity of the judicial system after a man who attacked her at work was found not guilty of five serious charges.

    Elizabeth Hunker, 26, was attacked while working at the Fairfield Marriott uptown in February.

    "I feel anger and sadness and a whole bunch of different things," Hunker told Whistleblower 9 investigator Paul Boyd.

    The man who attacked her, Billy Nippert, was not a registered guest but surveillance video captured him that night in the basement of the hotel.

    Nippert said he started the evening out with co-workers at a bar in uptown Charlotte and doesn't remember much of the night.

    The surveillance video shows him staggering through the hotel kitchen area where he tosses potatoes onto the floor and stomps one with his foot.

    Then he wanders through the laundry room, kicks open a door and turns an office upside down.

    Elizabeth Hunker was the on-duty manager at the hotel that night.

    "It was a restricted employee only area that he was in," Hunker said.

    The video shows Hunker walking down the basement hallway when suddenly Nippert approaches and grabs her.

    During their struggle he hits her face, forcefully pulls at her and slams her to the ground.

    A colleague hears screaming and runs to help, but then he's also attacked.

    Hunker said she feared for her life that night.

    "He came into my safe haven. My workplace that I go to every single day and attacked me out of nowhere," Hunker said.

    She said her coworker eventually stopped the attack by holding a pen to Nippert's neck and they called 911.

    Charlotte-Mecklenburg police arrived and Nippert was finally led away in handcuffs. The hotel employees were taken to the emergency room.

    Nippert was charged with assault inflicting serious injury, assault on a female, false imprisonment, breaking or entering and injury to personal property.

    The case went to trial in Mecklenburg County District Court and in a stunning verdict, Nippert was found not guilty on all charges.

    The judge ruled that Nippert was not responsible for his actions that night.

    Nippert's defense attorney said someone pulled a prank on his client and insists Nippert was involuntarily given a drug that night at the bar.

    The defense argued a theory of "automatism" and "unconsciousness" maintaining Nippert's behavior was involuntary.

    "In order to commit a crime, one has to have that mental aspect. If that's absent then a crime cannot be committed," defense attorney Herman Little said.

    The defense admits all of their evidence of a "prank gone wrong" is entirely circumstantial and they acknowledged their defense tactic is rarely accepted in court.

    "Based on the evidence that we had I believe that the result was just," Little said.

    Hunker said she waited seven months for justice and it did not happen.

    "I don't even think injustice begins to explain it. I think I was cheated by the justice system," Hunker said.

    Hunker said she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome after being attacked and is writing North Carolina's judicial board to file a complaint about the verdict.

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