by Jo Ellen Nott
On December 19, 2022, a six-month investigation into contraband smuggling at the Dougherty County Jail (DCJ) in southwest Georgia resulted in charges against 11 suspects. In a stunning display of rampant corruption, the group included four DCJ guards, a former nurse at the lockup and a former counselor for the state Department of Corrections (DOC).
The investigation began on June 26, 2022, after recorded conversations incriminated a guard and Matdrick Giddens, 34. A state prisoner serving a life sentence handed down for felony murder in 2009, he had been transferred to DCJ to await another trial. Investigators discovered that he was romantically involved with jail nurse Terra Kline, who was then fired from her post.
But the investigation uncovered a bigger problem: Staff at the jail in Albany had been helping move drugs and money across guard lines. Giddens was the alleged ringleader of the operation. He had given Kline’s phone number to his mom, with instructions to call the nurse to conduct business on his behalf. He also recruited four DCJ guards in the scheme.
Kline was living in Ohio by the time investigators caught up with her again, this time armed with arrest and search warrants. They seized her and 30 grams of amphetamine pills in July 2022. She has since been extradited to Georgia. Kline is charged with conspiracy to commit with intent to distribute Schedule II controlled substances; conspiracy to use a communication device to commit a felony; conspiracy to bring contraband inside the guard line; as well as violation of the state Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
Her ex-boyfriend, Giddens, 34, is charged with three counts: conspiracy to commit a crime; violation of the Georgia RICO Act; and enticing a child for indecent purposes. Giddens’ mother, Terry Jackson, 52, was charged with three violations of the Georgia RICO Act and three counts of conspiracy to commit a crime.
Announcing the arrests, Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) Maj. Ken Faust also named the four DCJ guards charged: Marques Ealey, 21, Brian Price, 35, Kenyarta Lovette, 43, and Isaiah Mills, 22. In addition to drug charges, they are accused of violating the Georgia RICO Act as well as their oaths of office.
Skylar Whitt, 52, the former DOC counselor, was charged with three violations of the Georgia RICO Act and three counts of conspiracy to commit a crime.
Another arrestee, Maurice Mathis, 27, was charged violation of oath of office, though it was unclear whether he worked for DCSO. He faces additional counts of conspiracy to commit with intent to distribute a controlled substance; conspiracy to use a communication device to commit a felony; and a Georgia RICO Act violation.
The other two arrested were not employed in law enforcement. Anita Thoms, 26, turned herself in after she was charged with three violations of the Georgia RICO Act and conspiracy to bring contraband inside the guard line. Serika Sonoria Stephens, 35, allegedly Giddens’ current girlfriend, was arrested on similar charges.
Faust said the investigation was ongoing and more arrests could be made.
Sources: Albany Herald, Georgia Gazette, WALB, WFXL
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