CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — The GBI confirmed Wednesday that it is going to investigate the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, and allegations that, for years, deputies have been sexually assaulting jail inmates in their custody.
The Sheriff requested the GBI investigation two weeks after a federal lawsuit accused deputies of sexual assault, and accused the Sheriff and others of knowing about it and not stopping it.
The Sheriff’s office said the Sheriff cannot comment on the allegations or on the pending litigation:
"We have been made aware of the lawsuit filed, however we are unable to comment as this is now pending litigation. Sheriff Frank Reynolds and the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office take the allegations very seriously. Earlier this week, we requested and welcomed the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to step in and conduct an independent investigation into the allegations . This afternoon, we were notified, they have agreed."
The woman who filed the lawsuit was an inmate at the Cherokee County jail, and she says a deputy she names in the lawsuit “violently raped” her at the jail in 2020, physically injuring her, and that the deputy “threatened to kill” her if she told anyone.
She also states in the lawsuit that she is not alone.
“Rape, sexual battery, and coerced sexual acts (by deputies) with female ADC (Adult Detention Center) inmates was rampant, routine, and widespread,” she adds.
The woman says everyone in the jail, as well as Sheriff Frank Reynolds and others in command, always knew, but failed to intervene to stop it.
“Any conduct on the part of a deputy that is improper is not to be tolerated,” Reynolds told 11Alive in 2019, after he did charge one of his deputies, Richard Gilleland, with sexually assaulting two inmates.
According to court records, Gilleland’s case has not yet gone to trial.
As for the lawsuit, Gilleland is not named as a defendant, but he is named as a point of contrast, saying that Gilleland’s arrest is an exception, and that many other Cherokee County deputies who should have also been arrested for similar crimes against female inmates were not.
The lawsuit also refers to the findings of 11Alive Investigative Reporter Kristin Crowley last year, about rape survivors in the community--not inmates--who were unable to get Cherokee Sheriff’s Office to investigate their cases.
“We made some mistakes," Cherokee County Sheriff’s Captain Mark Anderson told Crowley in 2021, “and we own that, I own that.”
And as a result, Captain Anderson and Lieutenant Garrett Carter said that they were changing their policies on rape complaints and investigations, and they were also going to re-open the prior sexual assault complaints from women in the community they had not investigated.
As for the allegations of sexual assaults inside the jail, Sheriff Reynolds told 11Alive three years ago that security cameras cover most of the jail, inside and out.
So, the GBI investigators who were just called in by the Sheriff may be able to find out if any of the cameras recorded any of the alleged crimes, or if any camera recordings exist that might disprove the allegations.