CONYERS, Ga. - Records obtained by Channel 2 Action News show a Rockdale County deputy charged with sexual battery was allowed to resign on the day she was set to be fired.
Deidra Hall was a 10-year veteran of the Rockdale Sheriff’s Office. In August, Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr broke the news that Hall had arranged to turn herself in to authorities on a sexual battery charge. The criminal warrant stemmed from allegations that Hall fondled a magistrate clerk employee.
Carr located the victim on Monday, and she agreed to speak about the April incident, which is a part of ongoing criminal proceedings.
Channel 2 Action News does not identify sexual assault victims without permission.
In an emotional interview, the woman said Hall commented on her cleavage and repeatedly reached into her dress, groping the woman’s breasts as she continued to pull back, the woman said.
“When I started to button my dress up, she started -- she didn’t start. She did unbutton my dress and say, ‘Oh, no, don’t button it now. Don’t button it now.’ Then she unbuttoned my dress,” the woman said in a tearful interview, accounting how she began apologizing as if she’d done something wrong.
“I looked at my co-worker and she was shocked and I was shocked and scared and bewildered,” the woman told Carr. “(I) Didn’t understand why she was doing what she was doing.”
A witness statement is in line with the woman’s account of Hall commenting on the woman’s cleavage and telling her not to button the shirt, but the employee told investigators she did not believe Hall had intentionally groped the woman.
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Both the witness and the victim described themselves as being distraught following the incident.
“And I decided, when I go to lunch, I just wasn’t going to come back,” the victim told Carr about that day.“I just decided I wanted to go home to some place safe.”
According to records, Hall told investigators she’d offered to help the woman with her buttons, and claimed Judge Phinia Aten had spoken to her repeatedly about her dresses and their appropriateness. Aten would later tell investigators in May that she’d verbally reprimanded the victim about her dresses but never documented the exchanges. She cited the woman as a good employee.
The woman denied being reprimanded for professional dress, and told Carr she didn’t need assistance with that.
When Carr asked the woman what she had made of Hall’s claim that she was helping her with her dress, she refuted the deputy’s account.
“She’s lying to protect herself so that she can have a lenient, more lenient sentence, or whatever she can get from Rockdale Sheriff’s Office,” the woman said. “I don’t have anything to hide.”
While Hall faces a sexual battery charge, the internal affairs report did not conclude sexual misconduct, which is defined by intent. It did conclude there had been sexual harassment during the course of more than one incident and Hall had violated the Sheriff’s Office code of conduct by being arrested for sexual battery.
She was set to be terminated on Sept. 7th, records show. Instead, she resigned in a letter, noting that she hoped to be deemed eligible for rehire because of that resignation and her innocence.
“My integrity, my badge and the public’s trust have been and will always continue to be the most important values to me,” Hall wrote in the letter.
Since August, repeated attempts to contact Hall at her home and on her cellphone have been unsuccessful. It’s unclear who is representing her in the criminal matter.
In a handwritten note dated the day after the incident in April, she told the county’s talent management office, “I hereby deny any and all allegations made by (the victim).”
Witness intimidation investigation
The former court clerk referred to Hall as “the predator” in her interview with Carr, and said she did her best to avoid Hall at all costs, due to repeated inappropriate contact the deputy had made with her since February.
A witness confirmed Hall told her to cover her ears when she talked to the victim about hickeys and rough sex with the victim’s fiancé.
Hall only admitted that she’d advised the woman to have her "husband” place the hickeys below her neck region.
But when the former clerk said she believed Hall and Aten were intimidating witnesses by asking if they’d been contacted by investigators about sexual harassment investigation, investigators ran into roadblocks.
According to the investigator’s records, witnesses stopped answering their phones. They canceled scheduled interviews with investigators. One woman wanted to recant her statement, which supported one of the victim’s claims.
An employee told her that another judge had told her not to get involved, and one employee said Aten pulled her into the office and asked why she hadn’t confirmed investigators had contacted her. The conversation, she said, made her feel uncomfortable.
Aten told investigators she’d asked her magistrate court clerk employees if they’d been contacted about the investigation, but her questions ended there.
Hall admitted to approaching another employee about the same thing, but investigators ultimately concluded they could not prove witness intimidation, mainly because employees of the magistrate court would not cooperate with the investigation.
Even though one witness was terminated by Aten during the probe, the investigator didn’t make direct correlations to the investigation. Rather, the termination suggested the workers were merely concerned with their boss, the investigator's report said.
“Based on the testimony and allegation of witness intimidation, it appears that the employees were more intimidated by Judge Aten than Deputy Hall. Judge Aten is the overall supervisor of the Magistrate Court,” the report read.
The victim told Carr she did not blame her former co-workers, whom she considered friends.
“I know the women who work there work hard. They have families, and their responsibilities are to their families,” she said. “But they’re trying to be as truthful as they can under the circumstances and trying to be as truthful as they can under the circumstances and under the work environment that they work in.”
The victim was moved to a couple of different departments before going on medical leave in July amid the stress of the investigation.
The woman, who filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the investigation, said she has not been contacted by the county about returning to work, although she has asked about filling other positions.
The group is awaiting its next scheduled court hearing on the sexual battery case.
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