Veteran Houston deputy arrested by GBI

WARNER ROBINS — A Houston County sheriff’s deputy is accused of giving money to a man wanted on a probation violation to help him get out of the state, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent said Wednesday.

Sgt. Wayne Mitchell, 52, a veteran law enforcement officer, was arrested Tuesday by the GBI on felony charges of violation of oath by a public officer and hindering apprehension or punishment of criminals, said Craig Rotter, assistant special agent in charge of the Perry GBI office.

The total amount Mitchell is accused of giving the man is not known, but the charges against Mitchell involve a $30 wire transfer, Rotter said.

Mitchell is accused of telling the man that a warrant had been issued for his arrest, giving him money to leave the state and then wiring him the $30 while the man was in Florida, Rotter said.

The man was wanted on probation violation for forgery and theft by taking, Rotter said.

Rotter declined to release the name of the man based on the ongoing investigation. He said the man was arrested, served his time for the probation violation and is now free on probation. The man is cooperating with authorities, Rotter said.

Mitchell, who had been held at an undisclosed jail in order to protect him from possible retaliation from those he has arrested over the years, was free on $3,600 bond Wednesday, Rotter said. Mitchell was held in solitary confinement after his arrest late Tuesday afternoon.

Mitchell faces one to five years in jail if convicted of the charges against him and is expected to face the charges in Houston County Superior Court, Rotter said. He also faces the loss of his state police certification. No one with a felony conviction may hold a police certification in Georgia.

Houston County Sheriff Cullen Talton said Mitchell was suspended without pay pending his termination.

The sheriff’s office turned the matter over to the GBI after learning of the allegations in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest per departmental policy, Talton said.

Houston County sheriff’s Capt. Robert Clark, head of investigations, said the allegations stem from information received from confidential sources. Clark declined to elaborate further on the facts of the case against Mitchell.

Mitchell, a 10-year member of the sheriff’s office, was part of the department’s Interstate Criminal Enforcement unit.

He has served more than 20 years in law enforcement.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.