Sect influence jeopardized security, Clarke sheriff finds
Four deputies have been fired and a fifth was allowed to resign for policy violations that jeopardized safety and security at the county jail, Clarke County Sheriff Ira Edwards said in a statement released Wednesday.
The firings come after a lengthy investigation into allegations that deputies belonging to a black supremacist religious sect broke policy by recruiting jail inmates into the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors and engaging in other prohibited activities.
“The investigation revealed varied policy violations which undermined the safety and security of the jail,” Edwards said. “Since the deputies had been placed on administrative leave during the investigation, however, any risk by those jail deputies to jail safety was foreclosed, and no further complaints of such security breaches have been received.”
The sheriff would not say who the deputies were or specify what policies were violated.
But according to an Aug. 17 report by the sheriff’s Internal Investigations Unit, the former deputies were identified as Cpl. Anthony Montgomery and deputies Rena Jennings, Leon Adams, William York and Bobby Dixon.
The report, obtained under the Open Records Act, states some of the deputies encouraged “inmates to rebel against white deputies” and “not to give black officers problems.”
Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents assisted in the probe, administering lie-detector tests to sheriff’s employees.
The internal report states that one of the deputies, Montgomery, tried to confound the test by using breathing techniques.
The deputies were suspended with pay after a Clarke County grand jury launched its own investigation last summer. The panel released a report stating it had looked into “serious” alleged jail policy violations and recommended that an independent agency probe the matter further.
Former jail commander Brett Hart, who contends he was fired in April because he had initiated an internal investigation of Nuwaubian activities at the jail, said he felt absolved by the sheriff’s actions.
“If I was vindictive, I’d feel vindicated,” said Hart, who is now a sheriff’s deputy in another county.
Edwards said in his statement that even though department leaders are updating jail policies, the rules in place at the time of the violations “provided sufficient guidance to employees regarding their expected behavior.”
The sheriff added that his office “will continue to conduct training about these standard operating procedures.”
Hart started to investigate Nuwaubian activity at the jail in March, when the U.S. Bureau of Prisons informed him that a maximum-security prison had intercepted a letter from Montgomery to the Nuwaubian spiritual leader, Dwight “Malachi” York, who is serving a 135-year sentence for child molestation, racketeering, money laundering and other crimes.
The former chief jailer said he also learned a deputy had given an inmate prohibited “racially divisive” Nuwaubian literature, titled, “Was Adam Black or White?”
Edwards’ only explanation for firing Hart was he decided it was time for “new direction” in management, but Hart maintains he was let go because he continued to press the investigation when it seemed the sheriff wasn’t taking action.
Hart and other jailers said they thought Nuwaubian activities undermined safety at the jail, and several white deputies worried that black colleagues might take the side of a black prisoner if a fight broke out along racial lines.
“I think anybody who reads any of the Nuwaubian literature that has been put out, aside from the more mystical literature that I did allow in (the jail), would come to the conclusion very quickly it denigrates persons who were not African-American,” Hart said Wednesday.
The internal report supports Hart’s concerns.
“Certain deputies who hold the Nuwaubian beliefs have become upset when inmates make fun of Nuwaubians and Malachi York, which causes a disruption in their ability to supervise and control inmates,” the report states. “Deputies are expressing serious concern that something is going to happen and they will not have proper or prompt back-up. This is a real concern of deputies that are working now and the deputies that have left. This environment is having a high impact on morale and retention.”
The report states that inmates who embraced Nuwaubian beliefs were given preferential treatment by the jailers who shared those beliefs.
Even inmates expressed concerns about being minded by Nuwaubian deputies.
One inmate “is worried for his safety and compares Nuwaubians to Muslim terrorists,” the sheriff’s internal report states.
Hart has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, contending he was fired because he is white and continued to press the Nuwaubian investigation when it seemed the sheriff’s office wasn’t taking action.
“The Nuwaubians have been identified by local and federal law enforcement authorities as a radical black separatist group with links to organized crime,” Hart said in his July 14 letter to the EEOC. “As the investigation progressed, (I) met increasing resistance from Sheriff Ira Edwards and his staff.”
A hearing on the complaint hasn’t been scheduled.
“The only thing I find curious is that Sheriff Edwards supposedly investigated this thing thoroughly back in March and was quoted in the newspaper as having found no policy violations,” Hart said Wednesday.
When the Athens Banner-Herald first learned of the investigation in June, Edwards told the newspaper his office had looked into allegations that prohibited Nuwaubian literature was being distributed, but couldn’t identify any deputies responsible for bringing the material into the jail.
The investigation didn’t end there, however.
The grand jury that also looked into allegations of deputy misconduct concluded in its July report that, among other things, the sheriff’s office did not have policies in place prohibiting deputies from “consorting with known convicted felons.”
The grand jury called for an independent investigation of the sheriff’s office, but Edwards said that his office would handle things.
Edwards’ response at the time was that his office fully investigated Hart’s concerns about a deputy corresponding with York, and again no wrongdoing was found.
At the core of the Nuwaubians’ presence at the jail were five deputies who were among seven officers who resigned from the Macon Police Department in 2004 after the city wouldn’t investigate their claims York was convicted as the result of a conspiracy. Three of those deputies, York, Dixon and Adams, along with Montgomery and Adams, were suspended with pay. The two other former Macon officers resigned in 2004 “to pursue other employment opportunities,” Chief Deputy Sheriff Jack Mitchell said.
The sheriff’s public information officer, Capt. Eric Pozen, said Edwards would make no further comments on the investigation because the former deputies have the right to appeal their firing before a county personnel hearing officer.
Original headline: 4 deputies fired after jail probe