0

Rockdale defender, deputy arrested

CONYERS - A Rockdale County Public Defender and detention deputy at the Rockdale County Jail have been arrested and charged in connection with an alleged improper relationship with a male inmate.

Yametria Roberta Smith, 33, a Rockdale County Detention Center deputy, was arrested early Thursday morning and charged with conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision, violating an oath of office and sexual assault against persons in custody.

Keesha Marie Brown, 27, who is an attorney in the Rockdale County Public Defender's Office, was charged with theft of services and conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision. She was arrested Friday afternoon.

Sheriff Jeff Wigington said investigators learned of the relationship between Smith and the inmate after a woman from Cobb County called the sheriff's office and said she had received several hundred dollars worth of charges for telephone calls originating from the Rockdale County Jail.

In an effort to track down the substance of the calls, investigators listened to audio recordings of the telephone conversations.

"(The investigator) recognized the voice of one our deputies engaged in explicit conversations with an inmate," Wigington said.

The sheriff said that the two had figured out how to bypass the telephone service at the jail and have the bills sent to an unknown and unsuspecting person.

Wigington said that Smith was brought into the sheriff's office for questioning and during the interview process she admitted to having sex with the inmate on one occasion.

The sheriff said Smith, who has been employed with the sheriff's office since 2001, has been placed on administrative leave without pay pending the RCSO's internal investigation. He said she is currently jailed in another county.

"We have many, many, many good employees," Wigington said when asked for comment on the arrest. "I would ask that the public not judge all our employees on this one person who made a poor decision and now must face the consequences. But I think it's important that the public knows that we're not afraid to arrest one of our own if they have done something wrong. We expect all our employees to be ethically sound and do what they're supposed to do."

Investigators have reason to believe that Brown was also engaged in an illicit relationship with the same inmate.

Wigington said that while investigators were in the process of listening to the "many, many hours of audio tape" from phone calls made from the jail and charged to the same phone number, they recognized the same inmate speaking with the public defender.

"They were pretty explicit conversations; however, we don't have any reason to believe physical contact of an inappropriate nature occurred," the sheriff said. "However, there were conversations that led us to believe that the public defender knew what she was doing was illegal."

Wigington said that even though the incidents involved the same inmate, he said he did not believe that either of the two women were aware of the other's relationship with the man.

The sheriff said that he expects that charges will be filed against the inmate in connection with the incidents, but declined to identify him as of press time Friday, other than to say he had been in jail since August on a charge of probation violation.

Wigington said he did not know exactly how much Brown and Smith had allegedly defrauded in telephone charges, but said one victim was billed for nearly $700. He said the jail's phone service, Evercom, has reimbursed the victim.

"They are not only preventing Rockdale County, but also the jail's, phone service from collecting money and were in fact billing it to the wrong person, an unknowing and unsuspecting person," he said.

Brown was released after posting $5,000 bond soon after her arrest Friday.

Chief Assistant Public Defender Owen Humphries said Friday that Brown has been placed on paid administrative leave pending further investigation into the charges.

Humphries said he was "shocked" to learn of the charges, but said further comment would be inappropriate until the investigation into the matter was completed.

Humphries added that Brown's cases will be reassigned.

Brown has been with the Rockdale County Public Defender's Office less than a year. She worked previously with the Public Defender's Office in Newton County.

Senior Staff Writer Ric Latarski contributed to this article.

Aimee Jones can be reached at aimee.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.