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Hall jailer arraigned on bribery, smuggling charges
Austin Herring

A Hall County jailer has been arraigned on federal charges that he accepted bribes and smuggled contraband into the jail.

Austin Herring, 19, of Gainesville on multiple occasions “delivered what he believed to be illegal drugs to an inmate in exchange for financial profit,” according to a news release from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

Herring had been employed with the sheriff’s office since November and was fired Friday.

Herring had his first appearance in court on Friday and was released on $10,000 bond. He did not answer phone calls from The Times.

“It’s shameful to see a young man deliberately decide to break the law and potentially put his co-workers at risk for his own personal profit,” Hall Sheriff Gerald Couch said in a statement. “While jailers are entrusted to provide safety and security for inmates, this person made the decision to betray his oath of service. We will not tolerate these actions and will continue to hold our personnel accountable according to the letter of the law.”

The investigation into Herring began on Jan. 28. The North Georgia Major Offenders Safe Streets Task Force used two confidential informants, a Gainesville business owner and an inmate of the Hall County Jail.

Herring allegedly agreed to smuggle a letter into the jail, according to the criminal complaint affidavit.

A law enforcement officer approached the incarcerated informant, saying a jailer may try to bring contraband.

A week after the letter was delivered, Herring met with the business owner, who handed him a small package of “ruse cocaine,” according to the affidavit.

The informant allegedly told Herring that it was Mexican cocaine, according to the affidavit, and Herring accepted $500 cash to smuggle the package.

According to the affidavit, Herring asked if the jailed informant liked milk, to which the informant said yes.

“Herring then told (the informant) that he would soon bring (the informant) an additional milk carton and that (the informant) should inspect the milk carton to insure that the milk was not ruined,” according to the affidavit.

Inside the empty milk carton was the small package of fake cocaine, according to the affidavit.

A week later, Herring put a second package of fake cocaine in a cracker box before handing it to the inmate while on a work detail, according to the affidavit.

Herring was arrested Feb. 20, and according to the affidavit he waived his Miranda rights and “confessed fully to the underlying facts of this investigation.”

The FBI is investigating, with help from the North Georgia Major Offenders Task Force, which includes members of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. Additional state charges are pending.

Under the terms of his release, Herring “may be permitted to continue duties with the National Guard” under the coordination of the U.S. Probation Office.

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