Two former Hall County Sheriff’s Office employees were sentenced Friday in federal court after pleading guilty in May to corruption-related charges.
Former deputy David Treadwell, 33, of Gainesville, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison after admitting to accepting bribes from a reputed drug dealer of $200 or $300 on five separate occasions in 2014.
Former jailer Austin Herring, 19, of Murrayville, was sentenced to six months of incarceration after admitting to smuggling what he believed to be cocaine into the Hall County Jail.
The different penalties emerged after a back-and-forth between lawyers and Judge Richard Story about which crime was more serious.
Treadwell accepted bribes on the condition that he would inform a supposed drug dealer if Sheriff’s Office officials were investigating (the drug dealer) for possession of marijuana.
Treadwell was fired Jan. 30.
Story rejected an appeal from Treadwell’s attorney to reduce the former officer’s sentence because Treadwell was not directly involved in drug investigations.
The offense, Story said, left him feeling that Treadwell has sold himself short and betrayed his colleagues.
Treadwell will serve two years of supervised release once his incarceration ends.
“I apologize to my community, to the Sheriff’s Office and to my family,” Treadwell said before the court.
Herring was sentenced after Treadwell’s hearing. Story said the two cases shared traits other than their timing.
“It’s hard not to compare the two,” he added. “I’m not sure which is more serious.”
For prosecutors, Herring’s case was potentially more damaging to the welfare and safety of both inmates and officers at the jail.
According to the indictment, Herring accepted $500 on two occasions to take fake cocaine and deliver it to an inmate.
Herring pleaded guilty to attempting to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and was fired on Feb. 20.
But Herring’s youth, his service in the National Guard, and the kind words of several “character witnesses” seemed to buoy his chances for a lighter sentence.
“Austin was always a good kid growing up,” Herring’s mother told Story. “He knows he messed up bad ... have mercy on my son.”
Moreover, Herring’s attorney implied that the former jailer had been duped into smuggling contraband into the jail by an older, predatory informant.
“(The informant) took a kid, a good kid, and now he’s a criminal,” the attorney said.
Story said he believed Herring is a good person and will be a positive influence in society, but his mistakes must be accounted for, particularly in an effort to deter other jailers from taking similar action.
“You don’t want to hurt innocent people,” such as caring family and friends, Story said, but added that he has an obligation to find a fair sentence. “It’s a horrible way to learn a lesson.”
Both Treadwell and Herring’s law enforcement status will be considered when determining where they will serve time.
“I’m deeply sorry for my actions,” Herring said.