Originally created 01/06/01

Father files lawsuit against boys home



AIKEN - A closed Aiken boys home and the state of South Carolina have been sued by the father of a teen-ager allegedly assaulted because he broke an employee's candy bar.

Justin Galloway was a resident of Winners Circle Group Home last year when he was seriously injured in an assault by three other residents and the female counselor, police said. The counselor, Jackie Sapp, was later charged with lynching the 15-year-old. She was accused of ordering other residents to attack the boy and then participating herself by "jacking the victim up against the wall" and "punching him hard in the back," a police report stated.

Now, the boy's father, Marty Lee Galloway, has filed suit on Justin's behalf, accusing the home and the state of South Carolina with negligence and assault and battery.

Justin, described in the lawsuit as "mentally ill," was placed in the home by a state agency, and he lived with other youths who had been sentenced in Family Court for violent crimes, the suit states. The placement was made despite a request by Justin's parents that he not be placed in a facility with juvenile criminal offenders, the suit states.

The boy's parents said Justin has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The couple voluntarily put him in the group home as therapy, but they requested that he not be placed in a facility with juvenile criminal offenders.

From February 1999 to March 2000, Justin was "required to undergo harassment and embarrassment from other youth" while supervisors participated or knew of the harassment, the suit states. On March 15, the attack occurred and caused the boy "severe injuries and emotional distress," the suit states.

The incident was one of the reasons the Aiken County Sheriff's Office gave for shutting down the home in September and taking custody of 10 boys. Other Winners Circle employees face charges of wrongdoing, including an allegation of sex between a male counselor and a resident.

The Galloway lawsuit accuses the home of negligence for the beating, hiring employees as supervisors "without proper references or investigation," and failing to provide proper management over the supervisor. It accuses the state of gross negligence for placing mentally disturbed youths in the group home with juvenile criminal offenders.

The suit seeks a jury trial and an award of actual and punitive damages. A lawsuit represents only one point of view. The defendants have 30 days to respond.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 648-1395