Recently reported misconduct of Hall County Jail employees included improper use of a Taser and a game of dare that led to sexual misconduct between employees, The Times learned Saturday.
Neither of the supervisors, Lt. Ken Nix and Sgt. Andrew Ondo, were involved in the sexual misconduct, although they did not properly supervise the employees, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Inmates were not involved, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
A statement from Lt. Greg Cochran obtained by The Times Saturday offers clarification on the investigation by the Sheriff’s Office that led to the resignation of six jail employees and the suspension of two employees. The Sheriff’s Office had previously declined to specify which employees were accused of which infraction.
About this story
The Times first received a tip about misbehavior of jail employees early Nov. 26, and reporters were able to confirm some information later that day with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. The Times filed an open records request seeking the investigative report regarding the case and was told it was not complete. Meanwhile, Lt. Ken Nix reached out Wednesday to share details from his perspective. Later in the week, Sgt. Andrew Ondo provided additional information about his behavior. Saturday, the Sheriff’s Office provided a statement with more detail about the allegations. The Times has been unable to reach many of those involved and is continuing to seek information, including through another open records request for documentation related to the case.
The employees involved, who all worked the same night shift, were:
Deputy Randall Norton, resigned during pre-termination hearing
Jailer Dani Colella, resigned during pre-termination hearing
Jailer Christopher Smith, resigned during pre-termination hearing
Deputy Daniel Harris, suspended five days
Jailer Kingston Morris, suspended two days
Jailer Alexis Mitchell, resigned while under investigation
Sgt. Andrew Ondo, resigned while under investigation
Lt. Ken Nix, retired/resigned
Cochran said an internal affairs investigation found that employees had “created an immature ‘dare’ game, which led employees to participate in improper conduct.” Ondo and Nix were not involved in the game, Cochran said.
Colella engaged in brief sexual contact with Smith and provided repeated false statements to the jail commander, Cochran said.
Smith had brief sexual contact with Mitchell, brief sexual contact with Colella, inappropriate contact with Morris and briefly exposed his genitals to other employees, according to Cochran’s statement.
Harris had brief sexual contact with Mitchell and was forthcoming during the investigation, Cochran said.
Morris had inappropriate contact with Smith and was also forthcoming, according to Cochran.
The initial investigation also found that Mitchell and Norton engaged in “prolonged sexual activity while on duty,” Cochran said.
The investigation found that Ondo was conducting unauthorized training that in some cases left areas short-handed when employees were pulled from their assigned posts, Cochran said. This training involved fighting and wrestling, in which Ondo was not certified, as well as improper use of a Taser.
“These acts of Tasing were totally improper and against agency policy and Taser manufacture policy,” Cochran said in his statement. “Ondo was drive stunning employees and Tasing (six) to (eight) employees as a group by having them interlock arms.”
Ondo had also not properly supervised employees and rarely patrolled the multiple jail towers and control rooms,” Cochran said.
Ondo told The Times the Tasing incidents were “horseplay.”
“I myself have been the recipient of voluntary drive stuns both as a younger line officer and supervisor,” Ondo wrote in an email Saturday. “However, hindsight being what it is, I should've been the more mature individual and not participated or allowed any of it to take place in my watch.”
Ondo also addressed patrolling the jail, saying he and other supervisors had been relying on “an instituted ‘officer in charge’ to assist in carrying out that supervisory function.
“That position, which was for senior officers and deputies, was only recently removed due to the addition of more supervisory staff,” he said.
Ondo said he had made some poor decisions while working at the jail.
“I can only say that my past choices were of poor judgement and foolishness on my part. I cannot emphasize enough that I hope others will be able to learn from my past mistakes,” he said.
Nix, the other supervisor, had planned to retire in December and told The Times last week that he decided to retire a few weeks early on Nov. 25 as he saw his leadership being questioned.
“It occurred on my watch. I can accept that,” he told The Times last week.
Cochran said Nix rarely patrolled the towers where the majority of employees were stationed and that Nix claimed to have been unaware of the Tasing incidents and other inappropriate conduct.
Nearly a third of employees working that shift were involved in the misconduct, Cochran said.
“The lack of proper supervision on the shift appeared to foster a culture of inappropriate actions and attitudes,” Cochran said in his statement. “The supervisors on the shift were not effective in guiding their employees and ensuring proper policy and procedures were being followed. These actions cannot and will not be tolerated.”
“I was unaware of any of the activities alleged. None of these activities came to light until a manpower intensive internal investigation was conducted,” Nix said Saturday when reached again by The Times. “There were over 20 hours of formal interviews. I will reiterate that I was the watch commander for the shift and will accept responsibility for what happened on the shift.”
Reporter Nick Watson contributed to this report.