ATLANTA — Former Newton County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Darrell Mathis has pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. He is scheduled to be sentenced at 2 p.m. on March 5 before U.S. District Judge Orinda D. Evans.
“The defendant dealt drugs while armed with a gun while he was a deputy sheriff,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates in a press release Friday. “He was sworn to uphold the law and to protect the public from the crimes that he committed himself. Today’s guilty plea provides important reassurance to the community that corrupt law enforcement officers have no place in our community and will be held accountable for their actions.”
According to the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of the North District of Georgia, 40-year-old Mathis, of 100 Wesley Providence Parkway, Lithonia, sold a little more than 2.5 pounds of marijuana over the course of four months to a confidential informant and undercover investigator with the FBI.
During many of the transactions, Mathis was wearing his NCSO uniform and firearm, often appearing in his marked patrol car, according to the complaint.
Based on the allegations in the complaint, a confidential informant first advised the FBI in April that Mathis had about 1 pound of marijuana in his apartment and that he told the informant at that time that he sells marijuana.
From May through September, Mathis sold various quantities of marijuana to a confidential source who was working with the FBI, as well as to an undercover FBI agent. On at least two occasions, Mathis sold marijuana from his marked patrol vehicle while wearing his Newton County Sheriff’s Office uniform.
On Aug. 8, Mathis sold 1 pound of marijuana to an undercover FBI agent. Following that sale, Mathis and the undercover FBI agent went to meet with another undercover FBI agent to discuss the sale of additional quantities of marijuana.
Mathis brought his NCSO badge and his firearm to the meeting. Mathis told the undercover agent that he was bringing his firearm to the meeting “just in case,” the complaint states.
During the meeting, Mathis told the second undercover FBI agent, who Mathis believed to be a marijuana and cocaine trafficker, that he was a police officer, pulled out his badge, and stated, “Don’t worry, I’m on your side.”
Mathis was arrested on Sept. 19, when he met with the undercover FBI agent while in possession of 1 pound of marijuana. He was charged him with distributing marijuana and using and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. As part of the plea agreeement, the drug charges will not be pursued, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Upon learning of Mathis’ arrest, Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown immediately placed Mathis on administrative leave with pay and later dismissed him from the Sheriff’s Office.
“My office is completely cooperating with the FBI in this investigation,” Brown said when Mathis was arrested in September. “This is an embarrassment to the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, as well as law enforcement in general.”
Mathis had been employed with the NCSO since 2008 and had no previous disciplinary problems with the Sheriff’s Office.
Ricky Maxwell, acting special agent in charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated in Friday’s press release, “A career in law enforcement comes with not only immense responsibilities but also temptations to stray from those responsibilities. Former Deputy Mathis unfortunately gave in to those temptations, the results of which ended his career and damaged the public’s trust in those others serving honorably.”
The weapons charge in this case carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ incarceration, as well as a maximum fine of $250,000.