Former prison guard pleads guilty to smuggling phones, cigarettes

'Treasonous' act gets probation, fine

A judge agreed to give a former prison guard who smuggled in cellphones and cigarettes a probated sentence Thursday, but he included a scathing lecture and promised to send her to prison for any misstep in the next five years.

Melissa L. Brown, 34, pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to the charge of trading with inmates.

According to Assistant District Attorney Pierce Blitch, Brown was charged after a Jan. 16 search of all Augusta Medical Prison employees. A drug dog alerted authorities to tobacco in Brown’s vehicle, and a search revealed receipts for large purchases of cellphones and tobacco products. Brown admitted she took cash from an inmate for about a month to smuggle in the items, Blitch said.

Brown, a wife and mother, helps take care of her disabled mother and handles her grandmother’s affairs, her family said. Defense attorney Charles Lyons has known Brown since she was a high school senior who interned at his law office. He told the judge that he gave Brown, who was fired from her job, an oral beating for bringing in the contraband.

Judge Daniel J. Craig told Brown that what she did endangered other prison guards. Inmates now know they can manipulate employees to continue with their own crimes. What she did was a treasonous deed that might have indirectly led to the death of a prison guard this year, Craig said.

No circumstance, no financial hardship, justifies such a crime, Craig said.

Craig sentenced Brown to five years on probation under the First Offender Act. She must pay a $3,000 fine within the first year and perform 300 hours of community service within the first two years. He also ordered her to have no contact with any prison inmate.

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