Originally created 10/30/04

Sheriff suspends deputy

Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey is suspending a deputy nearly three weeks after he was caught working at an illegal bar outside Sardis during a raid by state alcohol and tobacco agents.

Deputy Robert Wright admitted to being at Big Daddy's Nightclub when it was raided the night of Oct. 10, and he had been working there without department approval, Sheriff Coursey said. He will be suspended for seven days without pay, likely starting today, the sheriff said Friday.

Also on Friday, the sheriff's office arrested the club's proprietor on misdemeanor charges of selling alcohol on a Sunday, selling liquor in a dry county and selling alcohol without a license.

The warrants on Arthur Freeman were executed 17 days after a state agent swore them out in Burke County Magistrate Court, and within hours of an inquiry by The Augusta Chronicle.

Mr. Freeman and a woman accused of serving drinks to undercover agents were taken to the Burke County jail the night of the raid, but not booked. The warrants were sworn out two days later.

Chief Deputy James Hollingsworth said the warrants were turned over to deputies to be served Oct. 15.

The warrants weren't given high priority because the department didn't have any information on the raid from the state and they were misdemeanor charges. Sheriff Coursey said he was told by an agent after the raid that one of his deputies was working at the club, but he wanted to wait until he received paperwork on the incident to discipline Deputy Wright.

However, a warrant application describing the club's activities, and describing a Burke County deputy working in uniform with a patrol car parked outside, has been on file at the magistrate's office since Oct. 12.

As of Friday, Sheriff Coursey said he still didn't have "anything official" involving Deputy Wright but decided to take action after talking to him.

"He did not have my permission," Sheriff Coursey said. "He violated that."

According to the search warrant application, the Department of Revenue received a complaint from a "concerned citizen at the Sardis Police Department" about Big Daddy's selling alcohol without a license and selling alcohol on Sundays.

In addition to finding liquor and beer, court documents say agents also found two pill bottles containing white rocks suspected to be crack cocaine.

Sardis Police Chief Johnny Muns said drunken, rowdy patrons often fought at the club, located just north of the city line, then the fights would spill into Sardis after the club closed.

The chief said he tried for about six months to get help from the sheriff's office but got no response.

"I told his secretary, I told his major and I told the chief deputy," Chief Muns said.

Sheriff Coursey said Chief Muns is "categorically a liar," and is trying to smear him three days before the election, in which he faces Republican challenger Susan Salemi.

"He's never called me or my chief deputy, who lives in Sardis, or my chief investigator who lives in Sardis," Sheriff Coursey said.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or Mike Wynn at (706) 823-3218.


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