Wednesday in Court filings lawyers alleged that Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and several internal investigators covered up for a deputy who they knew was a sexual predator towards young teens.
According to the filings,the cover up amounted to save the Richland County Sheriff’s Department from embarrassment.
Sheriff Leon Lott and Capt. John Ewing, “deliberately and systematically concealed Deputy Bradley’s predatory nature and concealed their own knowledge of his predatory nature,” according to court filings.
The filings continued to claim that internal investigations into Bradley were inadequate. Also, that Lott and Ewing ignored evidence of Bradley allegedly having a relationship, also the possible sexual assault of a female student.
The number of inappropriate interaction reports during Bradley’s time as a Deputy would have proven to Lott and Ewing that Bradley was abusing students and his position. The Sheriff’s Department ignored the severity of those reports to indicate a cover-up.
“It was the result of the internal investigations that led to his termination and subsequent arrest,” a Department Spokesperson stated Friday.
Jamel Bradley worked for the Richland County Sheriff’s Department from 2010 to 2019, as a resource officer at the Spring Valley High School. In 2019, Bradley was charged with 3rd Degree criminal sexual conduct and a few months later charged him again with sexual batter. Bradley allegedly sexually assaulted at least 2 students at Spring Valley.
One lawsuit stemming from this was settled last year against the Sheriff’s Dept. and District 2 Officials for $900,000.
This weeks filings concerned the second lawsuit. Richland County Sheriff’s attorneys requested that this lawsuit be dismissed as it was filed beyond the allowed statue of limitations. Plaintiff’s attorneys argued that the potential for a cover-up negates the late filing.
In 2011, Bradley was accused of habitually acting in a “flirting” manner with a cheerleader, the records show. A Spring Valley cheerleading coach found Bradley’s interactions disturbing enough to have a talk with the student about them.
The student told sheriff’s department investigators that she and Bradley had talked over social media.
The plaintiff’s lawyers brought in a policing expert to scrutinize the department’s internal probes and investigations into Bradley. In the 2011 case, the expert found that the department stopped short of a complete investigation.
The filing claimed the department never requested to see Bradley’s internet records or social media messages to get a better idea of his relationship with the student.
A department internal investigation found Bradley hadn’t violated any rules of conduct in 2011.
Concealment of Bradley’s abuse continued in 2015 after he met at 10:30 p.m. with a female Spring Valley student, identified as Jane Doe 2 in the filing, behind the Target on Two Notch Road, according to the documents.
Two Richland drug investigators saw Bradley meeting with the student and while their actions aren’t described, one of the investigators felt enough concern about what he witnessed to report it to Ewing, Bradley’s supervisor.
Ewing wanted to see if Bradley’s story matched the student’s, and he interviewed them both separately. The filing said the two stories did not match but that Ewing closed his inquiry, verbally reprimanded Bradley, and told him to stay away from Jane Doe 2 unless in an emergency.
The policing expert found the inquiry into Bradley’s behavior with Jane Doe 2 “far below acceptable,” the filing said.
Ewing’s inquiry failed to look into emails between Bradley and Jane Doe 2 even though the supervisor could have accessed those emails, according to the court document. Those 2015 emails show Bradley arranged to meet Jane Doe 2 before school hours; told her to delete a certain email because school officials could see it; and sent pictures of himself to the student.
The emails showed Bradley had a “casual” and “flirtatious” and possibly sexual relationship with the student, the filing said.
In a deposition for the other lawsuit filed, Lott said that even after seeing the emails, he still thought Bradley’s relationship with Jane Doe 2 was not inappropriate, according to the filing.
In a separate complaint, a parent in 2016 overheard her daughter and a friend discussing the friend’s relationship with Bradley. The parent told a Spring Valley administrator that her daughter saw pictures of Bradley with the friend. The parent thought Bradley was having “sexual relations” with the student. Administrators eventually informed the sheriff’s department and the information was sent to Ewing.
The department opened up an internal affairs investigation, which consisted of investigators asking Bradley seven questions and trying to arrange to speak with the parent, the filing said. The meeting with the parent never happened.
The internal investigation into that complaint did not clear Bradley of misconduct, labeling the findings as “Non-sustained,” the filing said. If it had completely cleared Bradley, the findings would have been labeled “Unfounded,” according to the filing.
Again the policing expert described the investigation as insufficient, saying that the department should have taken more steps to get more information. “Simply trying to interview one person and not getting anywhere with it is not an investigation.”
In March 2018, a 15-year-old sophomore was the subject of rumors at Spring Valley that she was pregnant by Bradley. A Spring Valley administrator asked her about the rumor, and the student said it wasn’t true “but gave a clear indication that she had been sexually assaulted” by Bradley, according to the filing.
A month later the same student presented a hypothetical situation to the school administrator in which a girl was sexually assaulted by Bradley but didn’t want to report him. The administrator believed the hypothetical girl was the student and informed sheriff’s department officials.
Ewing told Bradley to stay away from the student unless she needed emergency help. The student’s complaints “were not taken seriously,” the filing said. Bradley remained a resource officer at Spring Valley.
Because of Bradley’s presence at the school, the 15-year-old’s mental health deteriorated to the point that she was hospitalized for 50 days because of suicidal thoughts.
The student told a doctor in April 2018 that Bradley had sexually assaulted her, according to the filing.
The sheriff’s department again investigated Bradley, who took a lie detector test. He was found to be “purposefully uncooperative” and the examiner found him to be untruthful, the filing said.
A department investigator believed Bradley touched the student, according to the court document. The department opened a criminal investigation into Bradley and found he was “untruthful with investigators.” Two of the department’s criminal investigators said they believed the student was being truthful about Bradley assaulting her.
But the criminal investigation was “closed mysteriously and abruptly” while one of the investigators was out of town, the filing said. The investigation determined there was not enough probable cause to arrest Bradley.
One of the investigators described Bradley as “above reproach,” the lawyers wrote in the filing.
After the criminal investigation, Bradley, who had been reassigned, returned as a resource officer at Spring Valley.
In a later deposition, Lott said that at the time of the polygraph test, he was not concerned that the operator believed Bradley was lying.
The mother of the student, later labeled Jane Doe 1 in a civil lawsuit, filed a legal request for the department’s records on Bradley. The department refused to release his records and the mother and Jane Doe 1 sued to get them, prevailing in the case, the filing said. A judge said that the sheriff’s department’s refusal to hand over Bradley’s records had “no legal or factual justification.”
This lack of transparency added to what the plaintiff’s lawyer continually called “deliberate concealment” of Bradley’s actions in the filings.
In a July 2019 deposition, Lott said that he believed Bradley was innocent of all the allegations against him and that Jane Doe 1 was being untruthful.
“Do you believe that the allegation from my client (Jane Doe 1) are untrue?” the lawyer asked.
“That’s correct,” Lott said.
“So you stand behind Deputy Bradley”
“That’s correct,” Lott said.
Four months later, after the department charged Bradley with sexually assaulting a student, Lott called him a “monster” who “hid behind the badge and my name for all this time.”
The department said the charge followed a deposition of Jane Doe 1 in her civil suit against the department.