FORT VALLEY, Ga. — A campus police sergeant was repeatedly accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate contact with students and staff at Fort Valley State University, but a The Reveal investigation uncovered that, for 10 years, the school kept him on the force.
Accusers said it’s because of a culture of sexual impropriety that went all the way to the top of the campus police department.
The investigation is in the wake of an unrelated sex scandal on the same university campus where seven people have been indicted in a pimping and prostitution ring. Prosecutors say a former executive to the university president was the leader in the prostitution ring.
By his 16th year on the Fort Valley State University campus police force, more than half a dozen women had accused Sgt. Wilbur Bryant of inappropriate behavior. Several were sexual in nature.
“To make love to you would be great,” the high-ranking campus police officer, who was once part of the university president’s security detail, is heard saying to a freshman student in a recorded phone call. “If I'm willing to put my job on the line for you, what that tell you?”
Attorney Kenneth Lewis is representing the student's family in a lawsuit against the veteran police officer and tells 11Alive, "somebody should have done something when the first woman raised her hand and said, 'Officer Bryant raped me.'"
Kellie Williams filed one of the earliest reports of inappropriate conduct against Sgt. Bryant in 2011. Williams, a former campus security officer, worked alongside the officers on the police department that she said were engaged in inappropriate conduct.
Internal documents show Williams complained to the university that Sgt. Bryant intimidated her into a non-consensual sexual relationship.
“I was isolated. I was put aside,” Williams said. “I felt for a long time that it was just me.”
But more documents from the school’s internal investigations show it wasn’t just her. Regina McCrary, another campus security officer, also complained to the university.
In her complaint, McCray told Fort Valley State that the sexual harassment was coming from more than just Sgt. Bryant. She also accused the campus police chief himself, Kenneth Morgan.
“I'm sorry,” she cried. “I couldn't go to my superiors within campus police because Chief Morgan was the chief.”
The university suspended Chief Morgan after an internal investigation, but said there wasn't enough evidence against Sgt. Bryant to investigate further. A university disciplinary review committee later disagreed with the campus compliance officer’s conclusion, stating that the university should have taken action against Sgt. Bryant.
“This could have stopped long ago. A long time ago,” said McCrary. “I think they should have both been fired. Out of uniform a long time ago.”
Despite the allegations, both Sgt. Bryant and Chief Morgan stayed on the campus police force while a third high-ranking officer in the same department also faced his own sexual harassment claim.
Williams accused Sgt. Bryan, Chief Morgan and another sergeant of sexual misconduct. She said when she tried to report the incident to a supervisor, she got this response:
“He said, Fort Valley State, it’s not who you know. It’s who you blow. And you’re going to have sex with somebody if you’re going to work here.”
The accusers say the university president and Board of Regents should have stepped in after several women accused three of the top members of its police force of sexual misconduct.
“It just seemed like everybody was in cahoots together,” McCrary said.
Documents show the president’s office was looped in on several of the allegations, but all the officers stayed on the job.
“I think they knew they could get away with it. They knew the small town would protect them,” attorney Kenneth Lewis added.
Fort Valley State University and the Board of Regents declined repeated interview requests from 11Alive Reveal investigators.
However, the school allowed Sgt. Bryant to resign last year when the GBI finally opened a criminal case against him. A freshman reported his behavior and presented an audio tape of the explicit things he was saying to her.
The school also re-assigned Chief Kenneth Morgan and fired him four months after we started asking questions for this story.
He’s been replaced with a female police chief who is a former sexual assault investigator.
“I think the evidence we have so far indicates many people were involved in it and certainly many more were aware of it and didn't know what to do. How to raise their hand,” Lewis said.
Officer Bryant was booked into the Peach County jail and charged with three felonies including violating of oath by public officer. The GBI says it still has an open investigation on campus but couldn’t divulge specifics.
For the victims, it finally feels like justice is emerging.
The Reveal is an investigative show exposing inequality, injustice, and ineptitude created by people in power throughout Georgia and across the country. It airs Sunday nights at 6 on 11Alive.