5 charged in abuse probe at Atlantis Leadership Academy in St Bess Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Charges have been laid against five men in relation to the probe into the allegations of physical abuse of eight American teenagers who were recently removed from the Atlantis Leadership Academy in St Elizabeth. 

The men were on Friday charged with offences, including assault occasioning bodily harm, cruelty to a child and assault at common law.

Those charged are 51-year-old Courtney Williams, and Carson Cox, both from Sandy Bank district; 39-year-old Edison Morris of Great Bay district; and 30-year-old Odane Maxwell of Holland Village district, all in St Elizabeth.

Also slapped with charges is 23-year-old Damion Herrera, a footballer from Gordon Pen in Spanish Town, St Catherine.

The accused men were held following special operations and targeted raids, which were carried out by the police in the Pedro Plains policing area of St Elizabeth. 

Reports are that between midday and 3pm on Friday, police officers conducted the operations in search of wanted men in connection with reports of assault, child abuse and other offences.

The suspects were subsequently apprehended and later charged. 

The Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) said the alleged abuse of the boys came to light during an unannounced welfare check on the institution on February 8, which was conducted jointly with representatives from the US Embassy in Kingston.

The agency said it was during its visit to the private facility that signs of abuse and neglect were observed, leading to the immediate removal of eight teens — aged 14 to 18 years — from the facility, reportedly for their safety.

One of the teens — an 18-year-old — has since returned to the US, while the remaining seven are being safeguarded in residential childcare facilities.

The seven boys appeared in the Children’s Court in Santa Cruz on Wednesday.

US attorney Michael McFarland, who was in Jamaica for the hearing, told a media briefing in Treasure Beach on Wednesday that one of the seven boys is to return to his family in the US next week.

The other boys remain in childcare facilities in Jamaica.