85ºF

Grand jury indicts Glynn County police chief, 3 others

Charges stem from cover up of detective having sex with informant

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Four current or former police officers, including current Glynn County Police Chief John Powell, were indicted Thursday night on a variety of charges resulting from an investigation into a former police officer who had sex with a confidential informant.

Arrest warrants were issued late Thursday for Powell, former Glynn County public information officer and current Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott, former Glynn County Police Department Capt. David Hassler and Sgt. David Haney, according to Mark Spaulding of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.

The grand jury found sufficient evidence to justify 20 charges, including violation of oath, attempt to commit a felony, influencing a witness, perjury and making false statements to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Jurors declined to indict on one additional charge they considered.

On Friday, Glynn County Manager Alan Ours placed Powell on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the case and named Glynn County’s director of emergency management, Jay Wiggins, interim chief.

The charges go back to 2017, when information got out that Glynn-Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team investigator James Cassadra was having sex with an informant. The court documents show that supervisors knew about the incidents but did not immediately report it to Powell, and when he did find out, he didn’t take appropriate action.

The charges in the indictment resulted from his supervisors lying to protect the detective, including giving false information to a special agent of the GBI looking into the case.

According to the Brunswick News, Cassadra has already pleaded guilty to two counts of violation of his oath of office and agreed to provide testimony about additional wrongdoing within the police department, including suppression of information about a police chase that resulted in a fatality.

A second narcotics team member was accused of associating with a convicted meth dealer who had a gun while the two were together at a bar. His status was not disclosed.

The charges

“We very much certainly respect the grand jury and their decision,” Glynn County Commissioner Bill Brunson said. “Obviously we are disappointed in the indictments but it’s part of due process and I think we have to remember that these policemen are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”

Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson released a timeline of the investigation:

  • February 2019: GBI began investigating allegations that an officer with the now-dissolved GBNET allegation improper contact with a confidential informant being used to make criminal cases.
  • May 28, 2019: Judge Roger Lane set aside a number of criminal convictions of cases GBNET investigated and modified or reduced resulting sentences.
  • September 2019: Grand jury investigation began in March made recommendations about the operations of the GBNET and suggesting the next grand jury consider criminal charges.
  • October 4, 2019: Judge Anthony Harrison suppressed evidence from a traffic stop in a GBNET-related vehicle chase and allowed a defendant to plead to a lesser charge.
  • November 15, 2019: Johnson appoints Clayton Judicial Circuit District Attorney was brought as a special prosecutor.
  • February 26-27, 2020: Grand Jury reviewed the evidence gathered and returned criminal indictments Thursday evening.

“This is an unfortunate situation, but we feel confident that the facts will come to light during this process,” Ours said in a statement. "The Glynn County Police Department will continue to operate and keep the community safe. We will work diligently to restore public confidence in the department by continuing the work that Chief Powell has done to rectify issues identified by the International Association of Chiefs Police management audit we received in September of 2018.”


About the Authors: