A Walton County, Georgia, sheriff's department informant was recorded encouraging a woman, Renee Jones, to use illegal drugs (video below).
“What [the sheriff's department] did is find a confidential informant who they then gave drugs to, marijuana and cocaine, and they sent that person to go meet with Mrs. Jones and to give her the drugs," Jones' lawyer David Boyle told CBS46.
In an audio recording, the sheriff's department's informant tells Renee Jones: "I want you to smoke this s---- over here because this is some good s----."
"I can't smoke it no more," Jones replies.
Boyle told CBS46 that after Jones refused the drugs, the informant planted cocaine and marijuana in her car.
Jones was later stopped by Deputy Jacob Palmer for a minor traffic violation. During that traffic stop, there was a search of Jones' car for drugs and she was arrested for drug possession.
However, the informant was recorded telling the deputy where to find the drugs in Jones' car: "Hey there's dope and there's weed. It's in the cigarette pack in the middle."
The informant allegedly sent an extortion letter to the sheriff's department demanding money: "Your dirty deputies gave me drugs (cocaine & weed) to give her. They set her up!!!!"
Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman asked the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department to investigate the deputies in his narcotics unit, and they were all cleared of any wrongdoing or misconduct.
The drug case against Jones was dropped by Walton County District Attorney Layla Zon who called the incident poor police work, but Page Pate, an Atlanta criminal defense attorney, told CBS46 on Thursday that a crime has been committed by law enforcement:
There’s a federal crime, I believe, for what happened here ... I think the clearest law that I believe applies to this case would be a deprivation of rights under color of law, which is basically a federal civil rights violation.
...If they’re involved in a conspiracy to do something to deprive her of her civil rights, to basically orchestrate this arrest or orchestrate this prosecution, that’s a felony and it carries up to 10 years in federal prison.
But Zon disagreed, "No. I don’t believe they were illegal because they are allowed to use the narcotics themselves and use confidential informants.”
However, the issue was never the use of confidential informants or deputies handling narcotics, but rather the planting of the illegal drugs in Jones' car by the informant who told the deputy where to find the drugs in the car.
Because [Sheriff] Chapman carries a lot of votes in Walton County and Layla Zon is a second term DA who has connections in Newton County, but has no political support in Walton County.
So in smaller circuits outside the city of Atlanta you protect your sheriff. Perhaps in her defense, she doesn’t see a clear violation of state law, but if that’s the case then you should request that the Department of Justice look into it.
However, Zon claims Jones knew that the drugs were placed, not planted, in her car.
Following Zon's logic, if Jones was aware the drugs were placed in her car and knowingly drove away with the drugs, then she should have been tried for criminal possession of drugs, but Zon dropped that charge against Jones after listening to the audio recordings.
Zon added that she was insulted by Pate's comments, but didn't say why she has not referred the case to the U.S. Justice Department for an independent investigation.