An undercover sting operation nabbed an Atlanta-area sheriff's deputy
who was selling marijuana out of his patrol car and in uniform, federal
Newton County Deputy Darrell Mathis told an informant that he could
sell pot without fear because "he drives safely and flashes police
credentials to get out of tickets if stopped," according to court
papers. Mathis, a five-year veteran deputy, was freed on bond after his
arrest last week, the FBI said.
"This defendant used his position
as a police officer to openly violate the very laws that he was sworn
to uphold," U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a written
"Selling marijuana out of his police car while wearing a
badge and uniform is outrageous. This case is a reminder that no one is
above the law."
Mathis has been charged with possession of
marijuana with intent to distribute and with carrying a firearm during a
drug offense -- a charge that could bring a possible life sentence if
convicted. He did not immediately return messages seeking comment
Newton County is about 30 miles east of Atlanta. Sheriff
Ezell Brown said Mathis has been placed on administrative leave, and his
office is cooperating with the investigation.
"This is an
embarrassment to the Newton County Sheriff's Office, as well as law
enforcement in general," Brown said in a joint statement with Yates.
to the charges against him, Mathis attracted the attention of the FBI
in April after what officials called a "social visit" by a person who
went on to become a confidential informant. The informant visited Mathis
at his apartment and saw large bags of what was "believed to be
marijuana" on the living room table.
The complaint states that
Mathis told the informant that he wasn't concerned about getting caught,
because of his safe driving and police credentials.
unnerved by the exchange, the informant went to the authorities and
offered to help with an investigation. The FBI then set up a half dozen
meetings among Mathis, the informant and eventually two undercover
agents, court papers recount.
Mathis and the informant discussed a
drug sale during their next meeting, the charges state. Mathis sold the
informant an ounce of marijuana later that day, showing up for the deal
in his cruiser, in uniform and carrying his service pistol.
After that, an undercover agent got involved -- and the amounts of marijuana increased.
June, as the agent bought a pound of pot, Mathis boasted, "I do my
little 10 to 15 a week" -- a phrase the agent "understood to mean
selling 10 to 15 pounds a week," the arrest affidavit states.
in early August, according to the complaint, Mathis met with another
undercover agent, a supposed cocaine dealer. The two agents and Mathis
sat down at a restaurant to discuss buying and transporting marijuana
and cocaine, according to the complaint.
While the three spoke,
Mathis allegedly pulled out his badge and told the undercover agent,
"Don't worry, I'm on your side." By the end of the meeting, the
complaint alleges, Mathis had agreed to run marijuana and cocaine from
Alabama to North Carolina at the behest of the undercover agent.
Federal agents found a pound of pot on Mathis when he was arrested last week, the FBI said.