COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Authorities probing a culture of corruption in south Georgia’s Talbot County paid several bribes to Herman Howard, the sheriff who died unexpectedly last year, an FBI agent testified Thursday.
“He was not prosecuted because of his death,” the agent, Gordon H. Hurley Jr., said during a court hearing, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
Howard died of a massive heart attack in March, about three months before investigators descended upon Talbotton, Ga., and arrested several lawmen who have since admitted taking bribes from agents they thought were drug dealers.
Hurley’s testimony came amid a hearing for one of two former sheriff’s officials, both of whom were sentenced Thursday to nearly 3½ years in federal prison.
“The law enforcement culture in Talbot County has been corrupted for quite a while,” said defense attorney Bill Mason, who sought to differentiate the “extreme cooperation” of his client, Jeff P. Sivell, from others charged in the sting. Mason said Sivell gave a full statement to the feds, “told them things they didn’t know,” and testified before a grand jury.