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$1.5 Million Settlement in Georgia Youth’s Rape at Juvenile Detention Center

The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) agreed to a $1.5 million settlement in a lawsuit alleging a 14-year-old was the target of several beatings and attacks and was raped in a shower by a 17-year-old detainee.

The lawsuit identifies the victim as “N.T.” and relates to conditions of confinement he endured at Augusta Youth Development Campus (AYDC) in 2011. The complaint named 15 officials who worked for DJJ. AYDC is DJJ’s facility to house committed youths in its system and who have been identified with mental health problems.

DJJ was the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice report in 1998 that found systematic and pervasive violations of juveniles’ constitutional rights. Among the problems were staff shortages, staff use of excessive force, a culture of violence and sexual assault, and lack of mental health care. A Memorandum of Understanding required DJJ to make changes, and DJJ was removed from supervision in 2009 after it met its obligations. The complaint alleged that after the consent decree ended, “a pattern of pervasive system-wide abuses in DJJ facilities across the state returned.”

When N.T. entered AYDC on March 8, 2011, he had a history of psychiatric hospitalization in 2010 and was on psych drugs. Between March 27 and October 4, 2011, N.T. was assaulted or attacked by other detainees multiple times. N.T. reported the attacks to his therapist on November 2, 2011. Another detainee, Jade Holder, died after being attacked and brutally beaten by other youths six days later, after a guard left cell unit doors unlocked.

Despite that incident, supervision of the juveniles remained lax. N.T. was one of 13 youths taken to the gym on December 4, 2011. They were left unsupervised. When N.T. went to use the bathroom, detainee Devin Scott Ardoin sexually assaulted N.T., forcing him to submit to anal and oral sex.

N.T. reported the incident, and Ardoin was charged with a misdemeanor for the assault. N.T. was again physically assaulted on December 19, 2011. Subsequently, “N.T. repeatedly self-harmed and attempted suicide, including attempts to slit his wrists, to hang himself, and [to] drown himself in [the] toilet.”

“He had been attacked on multiple occasions and put in isolation — that’s what they do to kind of ‘protect’ them — but sexual assault is really what the settlement is about,” said Thomas “Woody” Sampson of Thomas Kennedy Sampson & Tompkins, one of N.T.’s attorneys. His co-counsels were Demetra Ford of Ford Law and Leighton Moore of the Moore Law Firm. The $1.5 million settlement was reached on December 20, 2019. See: N.T. v. Howell, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ga) Case No. 1:2016-cv-04524. 

 

Related legal case

N.T. v. Howell