There are potentially dozens of victims—children as young as four years old—spanning at least three states over five decades. In at least one incident the predator and some-time Sunday school teacher threatened to kill a child’s family if they told anyone what happened to them.
And he almost got away with it.
Georgia authorities say Joseph Russell Dendy—a political player with connections from Main Street to East Capitol Street—lured children into his suburban Atlanta home and molested them. The 71 year old, clad in an orange jailhouse jumpsuit, shuffled into a Cobb County courtroom to face indictments on multiple counts of molestation, first-degree cruelty to children, enticing children for indecent purposes, and aggravated sexual battery. In Georgia, aggravated sexual battery is the intentional penetration of a sexual organ with a foreign object.
Prosecutors say it wasn’t the first time and, if Dendy is like most predators, he chose victims he thought would be afraid to say anything. If convicted, Dendy could spend the rest of his natural life is prison.
With outstanding arrest warrants in South Carolina and Michigan, a day after his arrest last Thursday the married grandfather was also booked on fugitive charges. The former Army captain, Vietnam veteran and Clemson University alum was indicted by a grand jury and is being held without bond in a Cobb County jail.
Dendy’s prominence in political circles in almost as stunning as the fact that it took 55 years for his vile acts to catch up to him. The local district attorney believes Dendy molested a boy in the 1950s when the alleged pedophile was just 16. Several victims said they were embarrassed or too scared to come forward.
“This is not a bond case,” Judge Adele Grubbs said from the bench. “He doesn’t have to waive a gun to intimidate.”
Dendy, who operated a travel business with his wife Billie since the early 1990s, once rubbed elbows with some of Georgia’s most powerful state and local lawmakers. He was well-known in Republican circles and, until last year, he was the two-term chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party—one of the largest and most politically potent such organizations in the state. Dendy was the campaign manager for former State Reps. Roger Hines and Sam Teasley.
Hines, a former school teacher, was one of few who spoke up publicly for Dendy at a recent bond hearing. He cited Dendy’s “impeccable” character.
It should also be noted that Dendy raised $100,000 for Gov. Nathan Deal’s general election campaign and was also Georgia state director for former Arkansas governor turner Fox News pundit Mike Huckabee’s presidential bid, according to Georgia conservative lawyer and blogger Jason Shepherd.
None of them want to talk about Dendy now, but Deal should donate any money received from Dendy or his fundraising efforts to a Georgia charity that supports child victims of sexual violence.
Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue also declined comment, as did Rep. Tom Price. As a county GOP chairman, Dendy was on hand at a 2012 presidential campaign rally for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who once represented the district and who helped build Cobb County into a GOP stronghold. No statewide election is decided without Cobb and neighboring Gwinnett. That Dendy held the chairmanship— and only left the post in 2015 due to term limits— speaks volumes about his political connections.
His presence at a Gingrich campaign event should come as no surprise, nor should his apparent reverence for the Fox News political analyst and thrice-married defender of Western Civilization.
Dendy, known as Joe, said at the time, “Newt’s a very brilliant man and he knows history like very few people know it.”
While his party position did not allow him to endorse a candidate in the GOP primary, Dendy said, “I hope someone either like Newt becomes our president or someone who is willing to listen to what history has done in the past and how we’ve gotten to where we are, and so that’s very big, but we are very pleased to have Newt with us today. We had a good crowd and we’re just happy to have him.”
Dendy also came under fire in 2104 after the Atlanta Braves baseball team announced it would build a new stadium in the district. Dendy, it seems, did not want rapid transit extended into the area out of fear it would mean more people from Atlanta into suburban Cobb County. And by people, Dendy meant black people. Ironically, he beat out a black Republican—an airline pilot and military veteran— who was vying for the county chairmanship.
The charges in the Georgia case stem from incidents dating back to 2007. One victim was allegedly molested nearly a decade ago when he was around 12 years old. There is a seven-year statute of limitations for sex offenses involving children under 16 that occurred between 1992-2o12. However, the clock on prosecution does not begin running until a victim reaches his or her 16th birthday, thus the now 20-year-old victim’s case can move forward under state law.
It is worth noting that state law changed in July 2012. From that date forward, there is no statute of limitations for felony sexual crimes committed against children under 16.
Police say a second victim, who would have been about four at the time, was sexually assaulted in 2011, according to police. That child, a witness said, was “sitting on Dendy’s lap” when Dendy slipped his hand inside the boy’s pull-up diaper and fondled him, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Dendy was able to lure children into his home and he likely knew some or all of his victims. According to RAINN, “As many as 93 percent of victims under the age 18 know their abuser.”
“Abusers can manipulate victims to stay quiet about the sexual abuse using a number of different tactics,” according to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. “Often an abuser will use their position of power over the victim to coerce or intimidate the child. They might tell the child that the activity is normal or that they enjoyed it.”
Dendy, a law and order champion of family values and supporter of draconian immigration legislation, may well spend the rest of his life in a Georgia prison. One has to wonder, given the vile allegations against the former Republican activist, if maybe we should have erected a border fence around the his house. But however belatedly, a six by nine cell will suffice.