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Lawsuit alleges deputy threatened to kill female inmate after rape at Georgia jail

Rape and sexual battery of female inmates at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center “was rampant, routine, and widespread,” according to the woman’s lawsuit

By Julia Marnin
The Charlotte Observer

CANTON, Ga. - A former inmate says a deputy raped her in an area of a Georgia jail without surveillance cameras and then threatened to kill her if she told anyone about it, according to a federal lawsuit.

Rape and sexual battery of female inmates at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center “was rampant, routine, and widespread,” according to the woman’s lawsuit filed July 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Particularly, sexual abuse would take place within the jail’s Workforce program, in which “young, attractive inmates” were selected for participation, court documents state.

The woman, who was detained in the jail in Canton during 2019 and 2020, filed the lawsuit against Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds and several other officers who worked at the detention center while employed by the sheriff’s office, which runs the detention center, according to a complaint.

She accuses sheriff’s office personnel of “routinely” engaging in “coerced and non-consensual sexual acts” with inmates a part of the Workforce program.

Capt. Jay Baker, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, told McClatchy News in a statement that the office has not been served with the lawsuit and is unable to comment on pending litigation.

The woman’s attorney, Eric Fredrickson, told McClatchy News in a statement that what happened to his client was “tragic and inexcusable.”

“There appears to be a systemic culture of sexual abuse at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center,” Fredrickson added.

The woman’s time in the Workforce program

In Sept. 2020, a sheriff’s office sergeant asked two female inmates to join the Workforce program but “knowing the dangers, they refused,” the complaint states. The sergeant then asked the woman who would later file the lawsuit to join and she accepted.

As the woman performed her Workforce duties, including laundry and delivering food to inmate cells, she began hearing about “rampant sexual abuse of inmates in the program,” Soon after joining, a deputy allegedly began inappropriately touching her, according to the complaint.

However, she did not report the deputy out of fear “for her well-being and that she would be removed from Workforce” which offered inmates extra benefits such as more time outside of one’s own jail cell, better food and even time credited off their sentences, the complaint states.

In Oct. 2020, this deputy told the woman to join him in retrieving canned food items from the detention center’s stockroom — which was under construction and did not have working surveillance cameras at the time, according to the lawsuit.

There, the deputy is accused of “violently” raping the woman and threatening to kill her “if she ever told anybody,” the complaint states.

During the woman’s time in the detention center, numerous other women were raped or sexually assaulted by (Cherokee Sheriff’s Office) employees and coerced into performing sexual acts for (them),” according to the complaint.

The woman says she knew of at least six other female inmates who were subjected to sexual assault by the officers and that sexual abuse at the facility was “well-known,” according to the document.

Additionally, the woman says she watched as male sheriff’s office personnel would come and go from female inmate’s cells in the middle of the night when they had no purpose to be there at that time, the complaint states.

The woman accuses Cherokee Sheriff’s Office leadership, including Sheriff Reynolds and other defendants named in the complaint, of receiving reports of inmates being sexually abused by personnel at the detention center and not investigating or addressing the reports.

In regards to the deputy accused of rape, sheriff’s office supervisors, including Reynolds, were aware of reports about him allegedly sexually abusing inmates, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint states the deputy was “forced” to leave the sheriff’s office and the defendants “kept his crimes concealed” by allowing him to remain in law enforcement and later join the Holly Springs Police Department.

The complaint did not specify in what capacity the deputy worked for Holly Springs Police Department, and officials within the Holly Springs Police Department in Canton, Georgia, told McClatchy News there is no record of the deputy working there.

In filing the lawsuit, which was first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the woman demands a trial by jury and compensatory damages to be awarded.

The woman’s attorney, Fredrickson, told McClatchy News that his client’s “courage in speaking out and taking action to put a stop to this cannot be overstated and is beyond admirable.”

“We have already spoken to other victims and witnesses who were in this jail, and hope that any others out there will also come forward,” Fredrickson added.

Canton is roughly 40 miles north of Atlanta.