Georgia police chief, 3 ex-officers charged as scandal grows
BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — The police chief and three former high-ranking officers in a coastal Georgia county have been indicted on charges that they ignored evidence that an officer was consorting with a drug dealer.
The Brunswick News reports indictments were issued late Thursday against Glynn County Police Chief John Powell, Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott and two former Glynn County officers.
The prosecution will be handled by former Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Lawson after local District Attorney Jackie Johnson stepped aside in November.
Powell is charged with four counts of violating his oath of office, two counts of influencing a witness and one county of attempting to commit perjury. Scott, formerly Powell’s chief of staff until he took the Vidalia job in July, is charged with two counts of violating his oath and one count apiece of influencing a witness and criminal attempt to commit perjury.
Also charged are former Glynn County officers David Haney and David Hassler.
The charges are the latest development in a case that began when a Glynn County narcotics officer was found to have been having sex with two confidential informants. Allegations later emerged that evidence was suppressed in a fatal police chase involving the Glynn-Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team.
After pleading guilty to two counts of violation his oath, former narcotics officer James Cassada agreed to testify about further wrongdoing within the police department.
The indictment alleges Powell and Scott violated their oaths by failing to address allegations that Glynn County investigator Dustin Simpson had an improper relationship with Brian Highsmith, a friend who had been convicted for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Evidence included a photo the two posed for, as well as a report from a federal agent that he saw Highsmith illegally possessing a gun at a bar, with Simpson then showing his badge to tell a bar employee to protect Highsmith.
The indictment also accuses Powell and Scott of improperly giving Simpson a chance to change his story during interviews and testimony and failing to require Haney to meet with a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent.
Both Powell and Scott were placed on administrative leave by their employers.
Jay Wiggins, director of the Glynn County Emergency Management Agency and a former Glynn County officer, has been named interim county police chief there.
Hassler and Haney’s charges claim they ignored and covered up Cassada’s improper sexual relationships with confidential informants.
Arraignments are expected in about a month.
The ongoing investigation has sparked attempts by state legislators to abolish the county police department and hand law enforcement in parts of Glynn County outside Brunswick back to the elected county sheriff.