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Former cop gets 10 years in drug scheme

ATLANTA — A former Clayton County police officer was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for his role in a scheme to steal cocaine from a drug dealer for his own personal gain.

Dwayne Penn was assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force at the time of the scheme. He was terminated Aug. 28, the day he was arrested by federal agents. He pleaded guilty Jan. 21 to conspiring to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.

Clayton County police Chief Greg Porter said Penn was held to a higher standard as a police officer and violated the public’s trust.

“It is the position of this administration that, I along with the Clayton County community, will always demand that every officer as well as each employee of the CCPD family, be held to a higher standard when it comes to the oath each of us have passionately sworn to uphold,” said Porter in a statement released Monday. “Our core values of honor, integrity, transparency and professionalism must always remain at the forefront of our minds. We owe a duty to ourselves and the Clayton County community to ensure that we remain worthy of our community’s trust and do nothing to tarnish the badges that we wear proudly on our chests.”

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said it was Penn’s job to serve and protect, not seek illegal business ventures.

“The public rightfully expects police officers to protect them from drug dealers, not go into business with them,” she said. “The defendant crossed over to become one of the bad guys and now he will suffer their fate.”

Yates, said evidence and testimony showed that in August, Penn conspired with Adrian Austin, an Atlanta-based drug dealer, to use Penn’s official position as a police officer to stage a fake traffic stop of a car that he and Austin believed would contain 6 kilograms of cocaine.

Penn would conduct a fake arrest of the car’s occupant, seize the cocaine for themselves and then sell the cocaine, sharing their ill-gotten gains, she said. “Fortunately, the person whom Penn and Austin sought to recruit for this corrupt endeavor was cooperating with federal law enforcement and agreed to record meetings with Penn and Austin,” said Yates.

In the lead up to the fake arrest and seizure, Penn and Austin met face-to-face with the confidential informant on two separate occasions to plan their operation. Penn drove his police car to the planning meetings.

As planned, on the morning of Aug. 28, Penn and Austin arrived at the appointed Decatur parking lot. Penn drove his police car and parked it in view of where the drug deal was to occur. Before the deal’s consummation, the confidential informant met with Austin in Austin’s car in the parking lot.

Austin relayed information between the confidential informant and Penn over his cellphone. The confidential informant exited Austin’s car and shortly thereafter met with the supposed drug dealer, who was also a law enforcement source, in the parking lot in view of Penn.

The confidential informant received a shopping bag containing 6 kilogram-size bricks of fake cocaine, walked back to the vehicle, and placed the bag inside, placing 2 kilogram bricks in the back seat and leaving the remaining 4 kilogram bricks in the shopping bag in the front seat, said Yates.

After the confidential informant emerged from the vehicle, Penn sped over in his police car with the lights on and blocked the confidential informant from leaving.

“Penn jumped out of his car with his firearm drawn and pointed it at the confidential informant,” said Yates. “Penn was wearing a bulletproof vest, which read ‘Police,’ and a black baseball hat.”

Penn and Austin were arrested shortly afterward in the vicinity of the Decatur parking lot. Each had a loaded firearm with a round in the chamber. The shopping bag with substituted cocaine was recovered from Penn’s vehicle.

Austin pleaded guilty to the same charge Jan. 14.

In addition to the 10-year term of imprisonment, Penn was also sentenced by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to five years of supervised release, 120 hours of community service following his release from prison, and was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment.

Sentencing for Austin is scheduled for April 10 at 2 p.m., also before Totenberg.