2014-Ongoing, Augusta, Georgia: WFXG Fox 54 has been investigating shocking allegations of abuses of power and misconduct in Columbia County family court including allegations of sexual harassment by Guardian ad Litem, Doug Nelson, and that this GAL was protected by several judges who were aware of the complaints.

For more history of the investigation, stories, videos, and updates please visit WFXG Fox 54’s online thread about Courts and Custody Battles: http://www.wfxg.com/category/283560/fox-54-investigates-courts-and-custody-battles

An brief rundown on what has been reported…

April 30, 2014: Several women from the Central Savannah River Area make allegations of sexual harassment against Guardian ad Litem and Columbia County magistrate judge, Doug Nelson. These women also report that refusing the sexual advances of Nelson led to him writing negative recommendations to the Court that ultimately resulted in these mothers losing custody of their children.

In one case reported to WFXG, a mother who is a military veteran of the US Army, was requested by Doug Nelson, the GAL on her case in 2011, to meet at an Augusta motel. While in the parking lot, Nelson allegedly began to fondle this mother, rubbing her arms, back and buttocks. Nelson eventually ended contact with the mother but things grew much worse when Nelson accused the mother of “parental alienation” which led to the mother losing custody.

Doug Nelson is also accused of failing to perform the duties of a GAL – he allegedly failed to interview the children involved. Nelson is also accused of bias, and that he interviewed 6 people in support of the father, and no collateral contacts for the mother. Nelson also expressed support of the father and that he has a “touching” hobby of writing books about social issues. In comparison, the mother got two short sentences written about her in the recommendation.

The mother reports before she lost custody, she shared a very close relationship with her child, that they did everything together. The mother made a report to the Richmond County sheriff’s office, who is investigating. Nelson’s response to this allegation is that “it didn’t happen”.

Other women have come forward with allegations that Doug Nelson asked inappropriate personal questions, made sexual advances and left inappropriate text messages and messages, also sexual in nature. One mother took screen shots of the text messages, “Sent from a phone number we (WXFG) confirmed through magistrate court offices belonging to Nelson, the messages we read say he “wanted to touch” and also discussed the mom’s attire. When she told him what she would be wearing to a hearing, Nelson responded, “giddy up – can’t wait to see.” This mother raised complaints about Nelson to Judge Daniel Craig.

In 2012, another woman filed a complaint with the Columbia Sheriff’s office that Nelson put his body next to hers, and stroked her arm and back. As of yet, there is no indication the women involved in these two separate incidents have had any contact with each other…and yet their stories are similar.

When WFXG contacted Nelson again, to comment on these allegations, Nelson reportedly said the mothers are just lashing out at him because they are angry the custody arrangements did not go the way they wanted. Nelson says the women are lashing out, and just want to get back at him. He also says, that he does not remember the details of all of his cases.

“SPECIAL REPORT: Women make accusations against former guardian ad litem” by Nick Lulli. WFXG, 4/30/2014: http://www.wfxg.com/story/25396656/women-make-accusations-against-former-guardian-ad-litem

May 1, 2014: Magistrate Doug Nelson (Columbia County) resigns one day after several women came forward with allegations of misconduct and sexual harassment. Nelson continues to state that none of the allegations are true.

“Doug Nelson resigns as magistrate judge” by Nick Lulli. WFXG, 5/01/2014: http://www.wfxg.com/story/25405867/doug-nelson-resigns-as-magistrate-judge

May 21, 2014: Radio reporter investigating problems within the guardian ad litem system threatened with jail by powerful judge.

Scott Nelson, reporter, has personally experienced a difficult family court case and so began to investigate the guardian ad litem system. Hudson uncovered the same evidence as WXFG – that by former guardian and magistrate judge Doug Nelson was accused of inappropriate behavior, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

When a confidential source allowed Nelson to listen in to a meeting of GALs, Judge David Roper retaliated against him after learning about Nelson’s investigation. Hudson said he was threatened with imprisonment and was so fearful that he dropped the story.

In May 2014, after news of the scandal became public, Scott Nelson made a report to the Columbia County Sheriff’s investigators.

Scott Hudson also says Judge Daniel Craig knew about the threats, because an associate of his emailed superior court judge Daniel Craig with concerns. In an e-mail, Judge Craig acknowledges that Roper did indeed threaten Hudson with arrest. Scott Hudson said this ordeal has hurt his family and his career.

“SPECIAL REPORT: Radio reporter says judge scared him off from covering allegations against Doug Nelson” by Nick Lulli. WFXG, 5/21/2014: http://www.wfxg.com/story/25583699/radio-reporter-says-judge-scared-him-off-from-covering-allegations

Dec. 4, 2014: The Judicial Qualifications Committee is investigating what superior court judge Daniel Craig may have know about complaints against former magistrate and GAL Doug Nelson. The JQC annual report for 2013, said that 75% of complaints against Georgia judges were rejected. The JQC now says that they are investigating these cases.

WFXG Fox 54 began an investigation into what judge know about complaints filed against GALs in Columbia County. This is an important question because in Georgia, the judges appoint and oversee the Guardians.

Judge Daniel Craig has presided over several cases where mothers have complained against Doug Nelson for inappropriate conduct and sexual harassment. While Judge Craig says he did not know about the complaints, evidence suggests that he was aware of the complaints, and continued to follow the recommendations of Nelson long after the first complaint was raised.

Other judges are also implicated. Judges David Roper and Wade Padgett continued to appoint Doug Nelson on cases, despite complaints against him.
“Judge Roper was sent a complaint by Tisdale in August 2013 about inappropriate behavior by Nelson on a case, but Judge Roper told me in May that he didn’t report Nelson because ‘sexual harassment isn’t a crime in Georgia.'” These complaints go beyond sexual harassment–the act of unwanted touching is assault. And if Nelson pursued these mothers through text, phone calls or visits–he could be implicated in stalking. Certainly, the allegations needed to be investigated, and the families involved needed to be protected from further harm and retaliation. That the Judge was in the position to do something and refused to act, implies collusion and deeper levels of corruption.

“What did judges know about guardian ad litem issues?” by Nick Lulli. WFXG, 12/04/2014: http://www.wfxg.com/story/27552940/what-did-judges-know-about-guardian-ad-litem-issues

For more history of the investigation, stories, videos, and updates please visit WFXG Fox 54’s online thread about Courts and Custody Battles: http://www.wfxg.com/category/283560/fox-54-investigates-courts-and-custody-battles

Thank You Nick Lulli, WFXG and Fox for investigating and covering this important story; for giving victims a voice and raising awareness about problems in family court and the GAL system. I hope with awareness, will come understanding of the very real devastation and harm caused to parents and children, and with that will come significant reform.