Channel 2 Investigates

Former detention center worker: I was fired for exposing juvenile sex abuse claims

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News investigates allegations of rapes and cover-ups that could put Georgia youth in danger.

Channel 2's Dave Huddleston has been looking into the state's Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) for four months after a former guard told him about the wrongdoing.

Channel 2 Action News obtained a video of a struggle. It is hard to see what's going on, but the DJJ said one of their guards grabbed a young man by the throat and threw him into his cell causing him to hit his head. The Department fired that guard.

“He tripped. He started falling back. I’m falling because he’s falling. He’s holding my shirt,” said former Lt. John Colister Jr., who denied assaulting the youth.

Colister worked in criminal justice for 15 years but less than two years with DJJ.

“There’s no accountability,” Colister said.

He said the video isn’t the real reason he was fired. He said it was because he wanted to report disturbing allegations of violence, corruption and a housekeeper having sex with juvenile inmates.

“They remained in that room together for approximately 52 minutes,” Colister said.

Colister said one staff member saw the encounter but didn’t report it. He said his boss failed to properly report it. He said his boss told him, “Do not say anything that’s gonna make us look bad or you ain’t never going to have to worry about a promotion in this agency."


Channel 2 Action News spent the past four months investigating the allegations. We filed an open records request and got a copy of the 2018 incident investigation. We also received the housekeeper's termination letter where she admitted to having sex with a youth in custody.

The housekeeper is charged with sexual assault by persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority.

The DeKalb County District Attorney’s office is now investigating the case.

Colister said he told his boss that wasn’t the only incident. “And I said it’s three more. And she said it again, ‘You have got to be f***** kidding me. We gonna lose our f***** jobs.’”

Channel 2 Action News learned there were a total of four sexual assault allegations. Channel 2 Action News also got documents where investigators looked into one of the sexual encounters.

They say the youth kept changing his story and the female employee denied any sexual encounter with him. The DJJ said all three allegations were unsubstantiated.

Colister said he lost his job for reporting the sexual encounters, smuggled contraband and poor working conditions for guards. “I don’t understand how a female officer can have her private areas grabbed by a youth and the consequence for that is a 15-minute cool off,” Colister said.

He has hired an attorney. “And it appears there is a culture here to specifically bury these types of incidents from being reported and from coming out,” Colister’s attorney Kirby Smith said.

Channel 2 Action News wanted to talk with the DJJ, but their lawyers recommended not talking on camera. The DJJ sent the following statement:

“Mr. Colister’s employment was terminated following a thorough investigation as a result of an incident in which he used excessive force toward a youth. Mr. Colister was not fired for bringing forth allegations of illegal activities. All alleged incidents of employee misconduct reported by Colister were properly investigated and responded to in a timely manner, resulting in disciplinary action as appropriate.”

Colister and his attorney disagree. “It’s obviously hard to review evidence of that nature and say it’s conclusive,” Smith said.

Colister is suing the state for wrongful termination.