By Joel Hall
A Clayton County Police officer has been indicted on federal charges, after prosecutors say he used his position to steal from motorists during traffic stops, and aid drug dealers in the trafficking of cocaine.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia said Wednesday that 27-year-old Jonathan S. Callahan, a patrol officer with the Clayton County Police Department, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on corruption, narcotics, and firearms charges. Callahan is also accused of stealing guns and money from motorists he encountered during traffic stops.
According to United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates, the indictment alleges that, on three separate occasions, while on duty between Aug. 6 and Aug. 13, Callahan was paid to aid and abet others in possessing, with intent to distribute, at least 500 grams of cocaine. She said the indictment also alleges that on July 15, Callahan stole two firearms from a motorist during a traffic stop, then stole money from a different motorist during a traffic stop the following day.
The indictment also charges Callahan with being in possession of a stolen firearm on Tuesday.
Callahan's attorney, Page Pate, said Callahan faces a total of nine charges in the indictment: Three counts related to assisting in a drug deal; three counts of extortion; two counts of stealing property from motorists; and one count for possessing a stolen firearm.
Pate said Callahan voluntarily surrendered to authorities on Tuesday, and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Christopher Hagy on Wednesday.
He was released from the Atlanta City Detention Center on Wednesday afternoon, on an unsecured bond of $50,000, according to Pate.
U.S. Attorney Yates issued the following statement on Wednesday: "As a police officer, Officer Callahan took an oath to serve and protect the public. Instead, he abandoned that oath and used his position to protect drug dealers and steal from the citizens he was sworn to protect," Yates said.
"Fortunately, thousands of dedicated law enforcement officers in Northern Georgia work tirelessly and honorably to keep us safe. We owe it to each of them to vigorously prosecute those who violate their oath and break the law," she said.
Callahan could face stiff prison time if convicted on all of the charges.
According to Yates, each charge of attempting to aid and abet cocaine trafficking carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000. Each charge of using his position to protect illegal drug transactions carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000. Each charge of deprivation of civil rights by stealing property from a driver carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison, and a fine of up to $100,000, she said.
Clayton County Interim Police Chief Tim Robinson said, by telephone Wednesday, that he could not comment beyond his written statement that was included in the U.S. Attorney's press release. In the written statement, Robinson said: "The actions alleged in this indictment are despicable. Officer Callahan was sworn to uphold the law, not break it.
"This case serves as a reminder that no one is above the law," Robinson said, in the statement. "I have no tolerance for officer misconduct and will continue to hold all members of the Clayton County Police Department to the highest standards."
Pate said that he was surprised by the swiftness of the indictment, and pointed out that the prosecution has yet to present any evidence to the court. "The judge today ordered that they produce that [evidence] by the end of the week," he said.
"We're a little bit surprised by the fact that it was indicted as quickly as it was," Pate said. "The number of charges, the seriousness of the charges ... surprises us very much. I still have not seen any evidence. I look forward to reviewing that."