Troubling Endorsements of Sexual Harassment and Abuse

It’s hard to image how we as a society stomp out sexual abuse and harassment and truly help victims of assault when those in positions of power and authority do not take it seriously. When efforts to seek accountability fail, it sends a message to predators that they are free to continue.

Two situations come to mind for me as clear and overwhelming examples of this problem with accountability. Both situations are well documented and involve many offensive acts which did cause severe and lasting damages to victims.

In learning of these and other such situations involving abuse, a cover up and avoidance of accountability, I couldn’t help but ask this: if this kind of misconduct is tolerated and protected, what else are these predators and those who protect them willing to do? Does any life, any right, any need…matter to them?

AUGUSTA: OUTSIDE THE GATES

In Georgia, in the family law area of our legal system, a sexual predator was given the position of Guardian ad Litem in many domestic cases involving child custody disputes. The role of this person as Guardian position lasted for years, so let yourself imagine how many lives were negatively impacted over that time and for years to follow. Unless you’ve been subjected to such pain and loss, however, it will be impossible to fathom the depth of suffering.

I’ll address the details of abuse by court-appointed Guardians (GAL’s) more fully in a separate post, but there are many and they are fueled by the same mentality that people are there to be used and taken advantage of, even when the court professional is a sworn officer of the court and expected to abide by laws specific to their role and profession.

Other court professionals knew of the predatory conduct in the Augusta area, and even discussed it amongst themselves in writing. They did nothing about it, and especially did nothing to address the twisted and harmful outcomes of cases, let alone the damages to the victims and their children. Of course the man eventually left the role of Guardian but was never held accountable and there was no investigation or relief for the families and children.

What happened?

The Guardian ad Litem chosen to sway the court in favor of one parent and against another used his position to coerce sexual favors from women subjected to his authority in their child custody litigation. In at least one case where the Guardian was complied with, the mother obtained custody when she was not the safe parent. That means the father in that case lost custody in spite of the evidence of the mother’s problems – endangering the children when they were in her care. Of course the father had no way of knowing that the mother of his children was being sexually harassed and assaulted by the GAL who influenced the court against him.

In many more cases involving abusive conduct by the Guardian, mothers who would not give in to his advances lost their children. In at least two cases, the children were forced to live with a parent who was psychologically abusive and potentially dangerous to them given issues with addiction and rage. Those mothers and their children were harmed badly as a result of this Guardian’s influence with judges and attorneys managing the cases, but there has been no recourse for them in either civil or criminal cases.

Even with news coverage of these cases and the pervasive sexual exploitation and fraud on the court, nothing was done about it. It was said by law enforcement that no crime occurred, that there was nothing the agency could do, and a judge actually just referred to the misconduct as “harassment,” saying, “sexual harassment isn’t a crime in Georgia.”

If a court-appointed Guardian ad Litem is not held accountable for such abusive conduct, and is allowed to freely abuse such power in this position of trust and control, what does that say about our system for determining what is in a child’s best interests? Can any parent expect to have their rights upheld when it comes to staying in a child’s life or having the ability to protect their children who are in harm’s way?

Taking it a step further, if such predatory conduct by a court-appointed Guardian is to go unpunished while the lawyers bill for the work going on around this conduct, what else, what other forms of abuse, were being perpetrated against victims of abuse? Were the professionals in this area aware of other abusive conduct and staying silent, or worse?

With Georgia’s extremely high rates of child sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking, the issues raised here should not just be filed away. These are not isolated incidents but indicators of bigger problems in the legal system and in our state.

Predatory conduct and the mindset of those in power who avoid holding perpetrators accountable make for a very dangerous combination. *If you can’t be protected from sexual assault when you enter the court system, where can you expect to be protected?

 

CORPORATE MALFEASANCE AND COVERUPS

The story below is connected to a recently resolved criminal case and ongoing civil matter in Georgia. Both sides of the story are troublesome and raise issues of accountability for wrongdoing; it appears that there is no perfect answer, no one clear resolution in store. I’ll say for now that one crime does not justify another, but it will be up to the jury and court to determine if secretly video-taping inside another person’s home is a punishable offense in this particular situation.

April 11, 2018, update: the jury acquitted the defendants today on all charges. Read more in the Daily Report here.

The purpose of sharing this information here is to highlight the mindset of sexual predators and lack of accountability for their misconduct, as well the extreme challenges for victims of abuse in seeking relief. Currently, there are no criminal investigations into any form of sexual abuse related to these parties that I’m aware of. News media, especially the legal news media, are only focused on the gyrations of the criminal trial for eavesdropping violations by the alleged victim of sexual abuse.

Updates on this trial are being reported by Robin McDonald with the Daily Report/ALM. For the latest as of Monday, April 9th, click here.

This update reveals the detective who tried to look into the allegations of sexual abuse by the employer stated that no crime was committed, but he was also unable to conduct a thorough investigation due to records being sealed and ongoing civil actions wherein parties and lawyers did not want to talk openly. Allegedly the court issued a gag order preventing the housekeeper from speaking about the matter. Police Lt. Carben Tyus pointed out that the existence of a parallel civil case does not, as a rule, impede a criminal investigation. “They are often simultaneous,” he said, adding that criminal prosecutions often take precedence over civil cases. It seems that one of the issues raised was that the alleged victim waited months before reporting, and produced no evidence of a crime, only narrative about the civil litigation.

BACKGROUND

In Texas, a woman was fired in retaliation for reporting severe and prolonged sexual harassment and assault by her co-workers and supervisors. When she left and started her own business, her business was attacked to cause her loss of income. I didn’t know about this case and the federal court’s scathing opinion of the predatory and retaliatory conduct until April of 2018 because it was introduced in the aforementioned criminal trial of a woman and lawyer involved in confronting the former Waffle House chief executive. Regardless of the outcomes of these cases, the information and federal court judge’s response to this abusive behavior are noteworthy, timeless and should be preserved.  We shouldn’t just move on from this like it’s another headline to be forgotten.

This is worth repeating:

Predatory conduct and the mindset of those in power who avoid holding perpetrators accountable make for a very dangerous combination. *If you can’t be protected from sexual assault or harassment in your place of work, where can you expect to be protected?

What allowed the entitled and predatory mindset seen in both of the above situations is pervasive and causing our society to rot from the inside out. It’s about a lack of humanity and empathy, the notion that people are there for the taking, there to be exploited and profited from in some way, no matter the cost.

After publishing this post, I dug a little further to find this AJC article from several years ago when the Waffle House “sex video” and the cross-claims were in the news; this was before the recent criminal case gained momentum. It provides added perspective which I believe is missing from the recent coverage of the criminal trial.

This is what followers of the Waffle House CEO Sex Tape “scandal” and the resulting civil and criminal cases are not hearing about:

  • In 1998, a U.S. district court judge in Texas ruled in favor of a former Waffle House personnel recruiter who alleged repeated sexual harassment at the hands of her superiors.

He, the chief executive, “… either condoned the wrongful conduct of (top Waffle House executives ) or sanctioned it in advance,” wrote the judge, who awarded former Waffle House personnel recruiter $8.1 million. The district judge’s written decision was later “vacated” by the court as part of a confidential settlement between Waffle House and the woman. (her name is redacted to keep the focus on the patterns of conduct relevant to this article)

  • The former recruiter agreed to support the woman in this present case, stating, “I think it’s important for this case that people realize that the power (he) has and the personality he has, how he could coerce someone to do what she did over all those years,” she testified. “And she, unlike I, could not just walk out and get another job.”

“You know, if a boss invites you to have sex or do sexual things, you always have to wonder what will happen if you say no,” she said.  The man who was her boss, she said, is “a bully. I find him to be someone who preys on others weaker than he is.”

As it turns out, the woman who did report repeated sexual harassment was terminated, with no record against her to justify the termination.

  • Classic victim-blaming:

“She was a jilted lover with an axe to grind,” said the lawyer for the former executive. The lawyer also stated that prior claims of sexual abuse or harassment are irrelevant in the current case.

I’ll leave you with one last thought for now: the situations featured here involve clear and compelling evidence of abuse, as well as evidence of failures by professionals and authorities to properly respond.

If such well documented abuse, exploitation and betrayal cannot lead to accountability and protection, what does this mean for victims of abuse – including children who are sexually exploited – where there is less evidence?

What other forms of misconduct, including retaliation for reporting, are being endorsed and covered up by corporations? What about by our courts?

Can you expect your own family members and children to be kept safe?

 

Sexual Harassment: Scribner v. Waffle House, Inc., 976 F. Supp. 439 (N.D. Tex. 1997) via Justia by Deb Beacham on Scribd

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Rome, Georgia and the Indictment of a Judge

Obviously we need more support for the Judicial Qualifications Commission to review cases and allegations of misconduct.

One story from Rome, Georgia reveals that law enforcement and the JQC are committed:

“ROME, Ga. (AP) — A grand jury in northwest Georgia has indicted a former judge on criminal charges including witness tampering and conspiracy to distribute drugs.

The seven-page indictment accusing former Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran of the crimes was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in north Georgia.

A grand jury handed down the indictment, charging Cochran with a total of six counts. Along with the witness tampering and drug distribution allegations, the other counts accuse him of depriving someone’s rights or conspiracy against rights.

Cochran’s attorney did not immediately return a phone message Wednesday.

The indictment states that Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission began investigating allegations of judicial misconduct involving Cochran around July 19, 2012. He resigned as Murray County’s chief magistrate on Aug. 15, 2012, which resolved the commission’s investigation.”

If you have reason to believe that your case involves similar issues of judicial misconduct, please contact the Judicial Qualifications Commission and follow the process completely to submit a complaint and the relevant exhibits to support your allegations.  From Augusta to Atlanta, and now in Rome, we can see that more oversight is needed.

Civil Rights DO Matter. Judicial Misconduct CAN be addressed, but you need to submit complaint forms and evidence to the JQC. The legal community is starting to focus on ways to restore the public trust that is being worn away by questionable practices that deny rights & destroy lives.

Civil Rights DO Matter.
Judicial Misconduct CAN be addressed, but you need to submit complaint forms and evidence to the JQC.
The legal community is starting to focus on ways to restore the public trust that is being worn away by questionable practices that deny rights & destroy lives.

 

Understanding GAL Misconduct via The Augusta Chronicle

Augusta news media have picked up what we think of as the HeartBeat of its citizens.

This is the burning desire of parents and grandparents to be able to nurture and provide for their children. And to keep them safe.

Housing and employment are critical as well, but in at least one case in every county we see these being taken wrongfully from good parents. The Roberson case in Augusta, as reported in by WFXG and The Augusta Chronicle, is a perfect example. Another case in Hall County is a stunning example of the court allowing fraud to occur for the sake of stealing property and work tools, while putting a child and father wrongfully out on the street. In Cobb County a mother is having to give up her profitable franchise business all because a guardian is dragging out a case to earn more fees, by saying a father indicted on child porn charges should have unsupervised access to children. Different cases, but the same pattern of fraud used to steal and destroy.

This burning desire to change this situation – for the sake of children – is not unique to Augusta, and as pointed out the damages caused by certain custody experts and other court professionals can be seen all around Atlanta. All it took was the will, the financial resources, the emotional tolerance and the time to start analyzing these cases, and to continue the work throughout Georgia. The damages here mirror what families around the country are experiencing.

It really boils down to corruption, which we often refer to as bad practices, because most people cannot picture what corruption looks like – how it plays out – at least not in family court.

As the Augusta Chronicle says so clearly, “It’s very, very wrong” and “stunning” in terms of the lack of accountability. In our analysis of over 100 cases in Georgia we’ve seen not one incident of professionals reporting on others they know to be clearly violating ethics rules and/or laws. This includes laws put in place to protect children from abuse, or to protect victims of violence or sexual assault.

What is glaring beyond belief in Augusta is that Superior Court judges knew that the guardian ad litem being appointed to child custody cases was preying on vulnerable women, trying to coerce them – and even a witness on a case – into having sex with him. Those who did not comply lost their children. Most still do not have their children with them, are devastated financially and emotionally, and Doug Nelson now has a new job. Would you be surprised to know that his new job is allegedly back in the court system?

Somehow our court system, or certain professionals controlling family court matters, decided it is okay to put profits over the needs of children, to just ignore laws and every rule governing professional conduct or judicial conduct.

Advocating_truth_MAC 2014

So as the number of families negatively impacted has grown, so has the beat gotten louder as more hearts have been broken.  Time for open discussion and greater public awareness.  Time to do something about these pounding hearts aching to have children returned and protected by loving parents.

We are not hesitant to ask for certain custody cases in certain jurisdictions to be reviewed and examined closely. The heated public discussion about what the reality is for parents being held hostage in these child custody fights demands that we follow through on this.

We hope more families will have a chance to recover now that public support is triggered and focused on the cause of their losses. So now we need to take a closer look.

The Augusta Chronicle in this opinion piece takes some of the guesswork out of the question being raised about why so many parents and children are being harmed in this process. What we are hoping parents will get for right now is that following advice blindly when facing a legal conflict in the family court system may not be the best approach.

Learn the process, talk to people who have been through it, and do due diligence on professionals before you hire or agree to subject yourself to someone else’s judgment or oversight.  All guardian ad litem and custody “expert” professionals are not created equal, that one thing is for sure. As treacherous as it appears to be in Augusta, Atlanta and in other areas in Georgia and the US, there are a good number of ethical and talented professionals, so if you have a good experience we encourage those names to be shared as well.

This is an excerpt that stands out and we expect much more animated debate around this topic in the coming months as more parents come forward after realizing that it was not just their imagination that something wasn’t “normal” or right on their case.

“Even though guardian ad litem reports are only recommendations that judges can accept or reject, both the woman in the Chronicle story and the divorced parent we talked to said their attorneys advised them not to report Nelson’s behavior, for fear of what he could do to them in his report.

We find that unconscionable, but also horribly bad legal advice – to sweep inappropriate behavior under the rug.

It shocks the senses to think of a court-appointed official preying on women who are in some of the most vulnerable states in their lives, while going through divorce with children.

The lack of accountability and responsibility in the system is stunning.”

Augusta has named Doug Nelson as one of the main custody experts who has harmed good parents and their children, but he doesn’t work alone in all cases. The next step is to determine which professionals teamed up with him to ignore evidence and guide cases to the wrong outcomes.

In some Atlanta cases we could see where Dr. Howard Drutman has worked with GAL Jim Holmes to suppress evidence of child abuse, and the same pattern has occurred with Dr. Drutman and other GALs in the Atlanta area, including attorney Larry Yarbrough who openly said he was working to protect the alleged molester in Cobb County (which the record reflects he has done).  This is just how they operate, when it is profitable and possible for this to happen. The rules, laws and needs of children just do not factor in with certain professionals, as the investigation into GAL Doug Nelson as proven for everyone. When parents attempt to stand up for themselves and fight to PROTECT their children, they are intimidated and retaliated against.

This is why we are adamant that this innocent father in Augusta be exonerated in his “criminal” trial in Columbia County. He didn’t do anything wrong…but he did work hard to fight for his rights to care for and protect his daughter. He was not allowed to have motions heard, has been jailed for many weeks now and key witnesses have been blocked from testifying. Can you guess who was involved in making this situation happen? Yes, a “doctor” acting as a custody expert. Check out the facts of this case and stay tuned to the news reports coming out.

Now that we know there is a problem, and we can see one source of the problem, let’s regroup on why it is so easy for this exploitation of parents and children to continue.  Join in as we work on #TurningTheTables on bad practices in Family Court.
By contrast, this mother’s case was damaged, with her children moved out of state without her knowledge, by the judge and the father’s attorney and not by the Guardians ad Litem who both recommended the children stay with their mother: