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

Court Watch: Do Georgia Predators Have It Easy?

Is being a sexual predator in Georgia just entertainment, or are we ready to call it a crime to sexually assault someone or to secretly videotape children and adults during private moments?

Three fathers in Georgia have so far avoided conviction and real consequences for alleged sexual misconduct, as has former magistrate judge and Guardian ad Litem Doug Nelson in the Augusta Judicial District.

Before we get into the specifics of these cases, we want to make sure you are aware of this video and the related document. The Georgia Domestic Violence Bench Book exists to help guide professionals in family law and child custody cases involving violence and various forms of abuse.

In the Atlanta area we are asking the question, “Should this man, William Randolph Cushen, be considered as safe for any child?” Would you leave him unsupervised with your own child or anyone else’s child?
CBS46 News

This post covers the issue of protection being avoided intentionally by certain professionals, and avoided consistently across Georgia counties in family law, child custody, family violence and child abuse cases. It touches on our analysis and reporting from the Atlanta area counties, including Cobb and Fulton counties, to the Augusta circuit including Richmond and Columbia counties. The more you learn about what it takes to prosecute offenders and to protect victims, the more you realize we clearly need more help in Georgia on abuse cases. We hear and read a lot about DFCS being blamed for situations involving harm to children due to a shortfall on caseworkers, negligence or lack of oversight, but what about cases where DFCS and law enforcement are kept out, and family court professionals are to blame?

Comparisons: Some crimes are committed and recorded – literally – which show that assault is a crime. (See Turnage and Cushen, as examples.) Others are clear as well in that ethical, credible professionals have substantiated claims of abuse, only to be blocked from testifying or ignored by the courts.

Turnage: This past year we learned this older GOP official, also a predator, was foolish enough to “play” around in front of Skype getting himself caught in the act of attempted rape.  Billy Joe Turnage, chairman of the Union County Republican Party in northern Georgia, was arrested after police responded to an ongoing rape that had been seen on Skype. (Photo removed March 2015)

Georgia just can’t help it, it seems, when it comes to sexual predators and wanting to be seen in the news.   This official and GAL Doug Nelson were caught in the act, but only one was arrested.   The one responsible for helping to commit fraud during litigation and causing damages to innocent parents – and to their children – has not been arrested, and the family court judge close to this situation said “sexual harassment is not a crime in Georgia.”  Judge Roper, what was done in Augusta is not mere harassment; it was assault and it was done in the context of coercing victims using their children as leverage.

Other judges in that area knew the Guardian ad Litem Doug Nelson was a predator, sexually assaulting mothers, throwing cases based on whether they complied or not, but they did nothing to intervene. Nothing has been done yet to correct the situation. This damaged both good mothers and good fathers. The toll on the children is still rising, but Georgia officials have done nothing so far. Some of these family court cases involve DFCS investigations, but we can show that the injury to children and parents is not related to any alleged DFCS failures. It is the family court professionals who are blocking protections.

How is it that sexual predators just have an easier time with help in avoiding prosecution? Either way this news coverage of sexual misconduct and attempted assault or actual assault is critical.  

What is hard to believe is that the Cobb County, Georgia, man – William Randolph Cushen – who secretly videotaped adults and children using the bathroom in two states is still able to avoid consequences in Cobb County Family Court while his victims await justice in the criminal court. He was able to plead out in Florida on similar charges after avoiding arrest in Georgia to be extradited to Florida, but family court professionals like Guardian ad Litem Larry Yarbrough do not appear interested in using the evidence on this case to protect the children. Certain court professionals have held the mother hostage in the legal process while waiting to see if the father Randy Cushen was indicted. They stalled decisions and protections in this case, even though there is no question that he committed these crimes, including secretly filming other adults and children.

Update: now that Randy Cushen has been indicted, we will get to see if the Child Custody expert, GAL (guardian ad litem) Larry Yarbrough and the Superior Court judge give this man free reign to continue abusing, or if they protect the children and hold him accountable. In addition to the damages caused to the victims of his crimes, and the risk to his own children, the father’s attorney and other court professionals appear to want the mother to lose her business and to be unable to provide for their children. There is still much here to investigate. One question parents and counsel might consider is whether or not to allow a criminal defense attorney who is positioned to defend alleged perpetrators (as opposed to protecting children) to be assigned as guardian, especially in cases where child abuse or violence may exist.

Case history:

MARIETTA, Ga. – November, 2013. A Cobb County man is accused of secretly photographing and recording both children and adults at a pool and in restrooms.   Investigators say William Randolph Cushen, III of Kennesaw set up hidden cameras at both a neighborhood pool and his own home. According to an arrest warrant, Cushen secretly photographed women at the pool at the Overlook at Marietta Country Club, and in a bathroom at his home on Grey Point Court.  The warrant says Cushen secretly videotaped women, men and children in the bathroom. Cobb County police would not comment about the case, citing its nature and an ongoing investigation. …Talk about being caught in the act!  

We want to bring your attention quickly to a major problem for victims and for our State leadership:  

Victims often do not get the support or protection they need, or the crime isn’t called a crime apparently until the victim is nearly dead, or deceased. This is not just because victims are afraid to speak up, and it’s not just that the evidence does not exist or hold up. This may be over-simplifying the answer, but it seems that the core issue is that it is more profitable to avoid protecting victims and to let true offenders off the hook. This is what we refer to as putting profit over protection.

Maybe the assault in front of Skype referred to here will make a difference even though police say the victim was “not physically injured,” or will this be forgotten? Thanks to this assault being seen, Billy Joe Turnage was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual battery and criminal attempt to commit rape.

But what about Randy Cushen’s victims? Child abuse can be prevented_My Advocate Center

When is it their turn to have justice?

Perpetrators of sexual assault, even those careless enough to leave evidence on text (Doug Nelson, GAL), on their computers (Cushen), or on Skype (Billy Joe Turnage), and even those exposed in the news media, often do not get prosecuted, and in some cases they do not face the consequences that early reporting suggests they will receive.

Two other cases we follow, one in Fulton County and another one in Cobb County, both involved investigations that led to substantiated abuse reports (one by DFCS), but the alleged perpetrators are still given either primary custody or visitation rights without any regard for the protection needed by the children.

It does seem that Georgia has a problem with tolerating sexual assault and abuse, even when the crimes and evidence are clearly identified and the victims are begging for justice (Cobb County let father John Kristofak out of jail knowing he was mentally unstable and committed to murdering his former wife).  

These are not isolated incidents and much of the injury is predictable, and avoidable.

If national news media is what is needed to make a difference, then we hope this SKYPE spotlight will serve us well!

In the meantime, please keep asking this question: is it all of Georgia leadership and all courts or agencies, or is it mostly family court professionals who put profit over protection?

Either way, KEEP THE PRESSURE ON to have predators and those who cover for them held accountable, while ensuring protections and treatment for victims.

Union County Sheriff Investigator Staff Sgt. Darren Osborn told the paper that 911 dispatchers received a report of an ongoing “assault and rape” of a 39-year-old female at Turnage’s residence last week. Osborn said that investigators from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted two days of interviews before bringing criminal attempt to commit rape charges against Turnage.  

 

This is KEY: the GBI only needed two days to decide to bring criminal charges for the attempt to commit rape.

But in the Fulton County Superior Court case, the GBI did not follow through on twice-confirmed evidence of child pornography, and both police and forensic experts were not allowed to testify for the protection of this child. Now the alleged perpetrator is getting away with making false allegations against the abused child’s mother, and she has been run into the ground from trying through the court system to defend herself and to protect her child. 

Why should the public follow up on this particular story about the rape assault on Skype? Because other sexual assault victims in Georgia, and victims of other types of assault or exploitation, are not getting justice or any kind of protection in many cases.  If we lose interest in these stories everyone loses, especially victims of crimes. In other cases the perpetrators do not have the political pull and connections this man apparently has. So if those other offenders are never convicted and their victims do not get justice, what do you think might happen here?

In the Augusta area, mothers who were sexually assaulted by the GAL Doug Nelson during their child custody cases cannot get law enforcement to take action against this predator. This is in spite of his text messages revealing his actions and their video testimony, and in spite of the fact that there are multiple victims and clear damages.  

There is even proof that judges knew this was going on and did not intervene, ignoring the damages to both parents and to their children. Good mothers lost custody of their children when they did not comply with his demands for sex, while at least two good fathers lost their rights – and a lot of money – when the mothers on those cases allegedly complied with Nelson’s advances.  

What in the world is going on outside the gates of the peaceful and austere grounds of the Augusta National Golf Course, home to the Masters Tournament?  This can’t possible be the same place the world sees as a golfers paradise?

Back to other news: The New York Daily News and other major media outlets spent time to learn whether this is the norm in Georgia, or was this aging now-former official just that stupid on top of being willing to commit the criminal act of raping a woman?

“A Georgia Republican official is facing criminal rape charges after he broadcast on Skype an alleged sexual assault attempt, according to a bombshell report.

Billy Joe Turnage, the 76-year-old GOP chairman in Union County in northern Georgia, allegedly tried to rape a 39-year-old woman in her house — and he televised the disgusting act on the Internet, according to the North Georgia News.”

 On this AJC page covering the Georgia election updates, more is explained about how this went down – or actually went UP, as in on the air: “Oct. 22, dispatch received a 911 call at approximately 4 p.m. of what was believed to be an assault and rape,” Sgt. Osborn said. “It was being viewed via Skype. Deputies responded and I responded as well.”

Ryan Mahoney, a spokesman for the state GOP, said state party officials have received no communication regarding Turnage’s status. Any effort to remove him would require action at the local level, Mahoney said. A picture of Turnage and David Perdue, the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, is on the Union County GOP Facebook page. It’s not likely to be there long. (If you follow up on this story, please let us know if this offender was held accountable.)

Correction: the Union County GOP Facebook page is GONE.  So apparently that is one way to rid yourself of pesky photos of predatory pals.

 

 

For now we’ll leave you with these questions:

Do victims of assault experience real damages even if they are not physically injured or if the injuries do not include physical bruising or tearing?

Do we expect our Courts and Law Enforcement to prosecute crimes and protect victims even when news media is not applying pressure?

If this kind of abuse is being reported on by news media, and victims are still not receiving any help from the courts or from state agencies, then what hope is there for other victims?