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Ex-jail chief files complaint over firing

Athens Banner-Herald/July 18, 2006
By Joe Johnson

 

The former commander of the Clarke County Jail has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming he was fired because he is white and he pressed an investigation into whether local jailers were recruiting prisoners into a black separatist sect.

Brett Hart alleges in his complaint that "Caucasian employees, including (myself), were treated worse than the black employees" after Sheriff Ira Edwards, who is black, took office in January 2001.

The 45-year-old said Edwards' decision to fire him three months ago was racially motivated and came as he was looking into deputies' involvement in the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors black supremacist sect and a "conspiracy by several (Nuwaubian) deputies to introduce contraband into the jail."

"The Nuwaubians have been identified by local and federal law enforcement authorities as a radical black separatist group with links to organized crime," Hart said in his July 14 letter to the EEOC. "As the investigation progressed, (I) met increasing resistance from Sheriff Ira Edwards and his staff."

Edwards' spokesman, interim Chief Deputy Sheriff Jack Mitchell, denied Hart's charges.

"Since this is an ongoing personnel matter, we cannot comment on the specifics at this time," Mitchell said Monday. "Sheriff Edwards denies the allegations, however, and emphasizes that employment decisions made by the sheriff's office are without regard to race, religion or other alleged protected characteristics."

In November 2000, Edwards unseated white incumbent Jerry Massey, who hired Hart.

Hart referred questions to his attorneys, who were out of state and unavailable.

Hart started an internal affairs investigation in early March, after the Federal Bureau of Prisons informed him that a Clarke deputy was corresponding with Dwight "Malachi" York, the Nuwaubian leader who is serving a 135-year federal prison sentence. York was convicted in 2004 on child molestation, racketeering, tax evasion and other charges.

Two weeks after he was fired, Hart claims in the EEOC complaint, "the jail deputy who had originally written to York wrote a second letter to York wherein he admitted to smuggling contraband into the jail for distribution to the black inmates on behalf of York."

Hart also said, in a previous interview, that he verbally reprimanded a deputy for giving a prisoner a York-authored book, "Was Adam Black or White," which Hart deemed racially divisive, and later found the book in the same prisoner's cell.

Over the past two months, the Clarke County grand jury also apparently studied whether there was a connection between Edwards' decision to fire Hart and Hart's investigation of Nuwaubian influence at the jail.

The panel's report, filed Thursday, does not go into detail about testimony of Nuwaubian activity at the jail but calls for an independent body to continue to investigate.

Edwards defended the way his office investigated allegations of misconduct.

"The sheriff's office is committed to a thorough and complete investigation of these serious allegations and has no bias or interest in favoring any group, religion or sect," Edwards said in an official response to the grand jury's findings. "If policy violations occurred, then any employee who commits such infractions will be dealt with in a manner consistent with policy and applicable law, and the Internal Affairs team has been instructed to vigorously pursue the investigation."

The sheriff said an internal investigation into alleged Nuwaubian activity has continued for several months, and that he would welcome help from an outside agency, including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

"Preliminary discussions have occurred with the GBI to evaluate whether investigative assistance from that agency would be appropriate and available," Mitchell said. "However, no decisions or commitments by the GBI have been made."

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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