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Newton County deputy charged with selling marijuana to undercover FBI agents

Sheriff says deputy has been terminated

COVINGTON — Former Newton County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Darrell Mathis has been arrested and charged with selling marijuana to an undercover FBI agent while in uniform.

Mathis, who was arrested Thursday, was initially placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation, but Sheriff Ezell Brown said Friday afternoon that Mathis had been terminated.

“My office is completely cooperating with the FBI in this investigation,” said Brown. “This is an embarrassment to the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, as well as law enforcement in general.”

Mathis has been with the NCSO since 2008. He was arrested when he met with an undercover FBI agent with 1 pound of marijuana. He made his initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Russell G. Vineyard and was released on bond.

According to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI learned of Mathis’ activities in April. From May through September, Mathis allegedly 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, the press release states.

On Aug. 8, Mathis allegedly 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 more marijuana. Mathis brought his NCSO badge and his firearm to the meeting, the press release states.

“During the meeting, Mathis told the undercover agent, who he believed was a drug dealer, that he was a police officer, pulled out his badge, and stated, ‘Don’t worry, I’m on your side,’” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Mathis, 40, of 100 Wesley Providence Parkway, Lithonia, has been charged with distributing marijuana and using and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

The charge of possession with intent to distribute and distribution of marijuana carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense carries a maximum term of life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Brown he does not believe that any other NCSO officers were involved in the alleged criminal activity, but an investigation would be conducted.

"We are going to do a thorough backgound investigation to include talking with his peers and so forth here among the organization," he said.

Brown said it is unclear whether any of the alleged crimes took place in Newton County.

"That piece is still pending right now," Brown said. "We have our internal investigation going and we are going to be meeting with the FBI to determine some of the facts and particulars in the case at a later date."

Brown said Mathis was POST certified and had had no previous disciplinary problems with the Sheriff's Office.

"Even beyond the basic certification, we maintain a high standard here with our organization," Brown said. "We teach everything from law all the way to ethics, and I guess this is a proven point here, no matter how much teaching or how much training you give an individual, I guess greed will force them to break the very law that they have held to uphold. And I think it's accurate to say, like Theodore Roosevelt said, no man is above the law, no man is beneath it, and no one asks you questions to ask you to obey it. In this case here Mathis failed to obey the oath of office in which that is covered, the Constitution and the oath of office, and he is going to suffer the consequences of it."