0

Officer pleads guilty to Internet-predator charge

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Eleven months after he was caught in an Internet-predator sting, a former Clayton County police officer has pleaded guilty in federal court.

Standing in the somber, wood-paneled courtroom on the 17th floor of Atlanta's Richard B. Russell Federal Building, 29-year-old Casey Carmichael admitted he sent a video of himself masturbating in his patrol car to an FBI agent, who was undercover online as a 14-year-old girl.

Carmichael pleaded guilty to "knowingly attempting to transfer obscene matter on the Internet to a person under the age of 16."

Assistant United States Attorney David McClernan said the police officer was in an Internet chat room, last September, while on duty, and he started chatting an undercover agent. "In the process of these chats, which were somewhat lewd in nature," McClernan said, "the obscene material was transferred." Carmichael attached a web cam to his department-issued laptop and was talking about demonstrating sex acts, while in uniform, to what he thought was a 14-year-old girl in Mississippi.

Carmichael, a Newnan man who had been with the police department for a year and a half, was under investigation for about two weeks. Federal agents arrested him when he showed up for duty on a Sunday in September at the Clayton County Police Department headquarters in Jonesboro.

The police chief spoke with Carmichael at the time of his arrest and told him he was disappointed and appalled.

"I told him, 'You are not above the law,'" Police Chief Jeff Turner said.

United States Attorney David Nahmias said it is a "sad day," when a police officer "misuses the trust of the citizens," but cautioned, "the actions of this officer should not negatively reflect upon the vast majority of law-abiding officers and officials who work tirelessly in our community, including those officers who caught this defendant."

Carmichael was dismissed from the department after he was indicted by a federal grand jury. He appeared in the courtroom Thursday with a fresh hair cut and a sunburn.

Asked repeatedly by U.S. District Court Judge Willis B. Hunt if he had any questions, Carmichael said, simply, "no sir."

"Have you decided it's better for you to accept a plea, with the agreement you've reached with the government, than to go to trial?" Hunt asked.

"Yes sir," Carmichael said.

Carmichael accepted a plea deal which would send him to federal prison for three years and nine months. Without the deal, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in federal prison, where there is no parole. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 16.