Glynn County police chief, 3 ex-officers booked into jail

4 indicted after investigation of narcotics unit, cover up

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The police chief and three former high-ranking officers of the Glynn County Police Department indicted last Thursday on charges that they ignored evidence that an officer was consorting with a drug dealer were booked into jail on Friday and Saturday.

Arrest warrants were issued for Glynn County Police Chief John Powell, Vidalia Police Chief Brian Scott, and former Glynn County officers David Haney and David Hassler after a grand jury returned a 20-count indictment.

Powell is charged with four counts of violating his oath of office, two counts of influencing a witness and one count of attempting to commit perjury. Scott, formerly Powell’s chief of staff until he took the Vidalia job in July, is charged with two counts of violating his oath and one count apiece of influencing a witness and criminal attempt to commit perjury.

The charges are the latest development in a case that began when a Glynn County narcotics officer was found to have been having sex with two confidential informants. Allegations later emerged that evidence was suppressed in a fatal police chase involving the Glynn-Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team.

After pleading guilty to two counts of violation his oath, former narcotics officer James Cassada agreed to testify about further wrongdoing within the police department.

The indictment alleges Powell and Scott violated their oaths by failing to address allegations that Glynn County investigator Dustin Simpson had an improper relationship with Brian Highsmith, a friend who had been convicted for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Evidence included a photo the two posed for, as well as a report from a federal agent that he saw Highsmith illegally possessing a gun at a bar, with Simpson then showing his badge to tell a bar employee to protect Highsmith.

Investigators said that more than once, Powell tried to influence a witness in the investigation of one of his officers who was seen associating with a convicted drug dealer. They also said that both Powell and Scott made “an indirect threat of damage to the [an investigators] employment” with the Glynn County Police Department to deter him from testifying freely and truthfully.

The indictment also accuses Powell and Scott of improperly giving Simpson a chance to change his story during interviews and testimony and failing to require Haney to meet with a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent.

Both Powell and Scott were placed on administrative leave by their employers. Bond for Hassler and Powell was set at $35,000 bond; Haney’s body was $30,000 and Scott’s was set at $20,000.

Jay Wiggins, director of the Glynn County Emergency Management Agency and a former Glynn County officer, was named interim county police chief on Friday.

Hassler and Haney’s charges claim they ignored and covered up Cassada’s improper sexual relationships with confidential informants.

Arraignments are expected in about a month. The prosecution will be handled by former Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Lawson after local District Attorney Jackie Johnson stepped aside in November.

The ongoing investigation has sparked attempts by state legislators to abolish the county police department and hand law enforcement in parts of Glynn County outside Brunswick back to the elected county sheriff.