04/04/2001

Ga. sheriff told of drug ring inside jail

Don Plummer, Ben Smith
March 31, 2001 Saturday, Home Edition
Copyright 2001 The Atlanta Constitution
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
March 31, 2001 Saturday, Home Edition

(DEKALB COUNTY, Ga.) - Special grand jury is looking into whether an employee-run drug ring operated inside the county jail, DeKalb District Attorney J. Tom Morgan said Friday.

He also said there is no evidence linking the drug sales and the Dec. 15 slaying of Sheriff-elect Derwin Brown, who had vowed to clean up operations at the jail.

The grand jury began hearing testimony three weeks ago, but Friday was the first time that Morgan has indicated what charges were among those being considered.

Brown, who won an Aug. 8 runoff over incumbent Sheriff Sidney Dorsey, was aware of allegations that sheriff's employees were involved in selling drugs, according to campaign aide Deborah McDormand.

McDormand, who was to have headed Brown's victim advocate office at the jail, said investigators alerted Brown to the drug investigation three weeks before he was shot in the yard of his home.

Morgan, who since last March has been investigating allegations of illegal activities at the jail under the administration of Dorsey, said he shared details of his investigation with Brown.

The district attorney did not specifically link Dorsey with the allegations.

Morgan said that he and Brown also discussed how Brown would assist the probe after taking office on Jan 1.

"Derwin was going to be a big help with our investigation once he was in charge of the jail," Morgan said.

Brown, a 22-year veteran DeKalb police officer, told close associates that in addition to selling drugs, he believed some sheriff's employees had misappropriated confiscated property, including guns and vehicles seized from drug dealers.

Soon after winning office, Brown sent termination letters to about three dozen employees. He also ordered all reserve deputies to turn in their badges and equipment and reapply.

Brown was killed just two weeks before he was to have taken office as he returned from a party celebrating his graduation from sheriff's training in Forsyth.

He was shot at least 11 times in an ambush that authorities have characterized as an "assassination."

After Brown's slaying, then-interim Sheriff Thomas Brown, who is not related to Derwin Brown, fired four sheriff's employees. They were Capt. Robert Krug and deputies Patrick Cuffy, Melvin D. Walker and Solomon Daniels.

Police investigating Brown's killing have said they are looking at a number of suspects and motives, but will not publicly identify anyone as a suspect.

Officers with the 34-member police task force investigating Brown's death have arrested six men --- including Cuffy and Walker --- and are seeking another man on charges ranging from lying to police to armed robbery to the kidnapping and murder of a man found dead after a March 18 shootout at Cuffy's south DeKalb home.

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