The trial for four former Glynn County Police officers, including its chief, who were accused of covering up misconduct in the department’s narcotics unit, has been pushed to early 2023. 

The trial was scheduled for August 22, for the Glynn County Police Department officials indicted for allegedly covering up a narcotics officer’s affair with an informant and failing to investigate different narcotics officers upon learning they acted unethically. 

Scheduling conflicts with the officers’ lawyers caused the case to be rescheduled for early 2023, according to a court order on Friday. An official date has not yet been set.

The delayed trial date will mark nearly three years since charges were filed against former Chief John Powell, former Chief of Staff Brian Scott, former Capt. David Hassler, and former Sgt. David Haney on Feb. 28, 2020. 

Five days before that, a Black man went for a run in Glynn County and never made it home. 

The man, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, was chased and killed by three white men in the Satilla Shores neighborhood. One of those men was a former Glynn County Police officer and former investigator with the Brunswick Judicial District Attorney’s office.

All three men were eventually convicted of murder and other charges and then later convicted on federal hate crimes charges. The district attorney would later be voted out of office and indicted for allegedly showing favor to the men convicted of killing Arbery.

But it took time and national outrage to reach that result. The Glynn County Police Department and the DA’s office initially displayed inertia in the weeks after Arbery was killed — it was indicative of a greater culture of ducking accountability at the agencies, according to a previous investigation by The Current

That culture became apparent in 2018, when Glynn County residents empaneled for the grand jury took it on themselves to investigate the lack of oversight in the police department – leading to the 2020 misconduct indictments brought against the four Glynn County Police officers.

Most of the charges have to do with the officers violating their oath of office in which they vowed to “faithfully discharge (their) duties fairly and impartially” for the Glynn County Police Department. 

Former Glynn County Police Department Chief John Powell

Lawyers for Powell, Scott, Haney and Hassler sought to get the charges dismissed by the judge, claiming the charges were too vague and not actually criminal, court filings show. Violating police policy was not the same as breaking the law, they argued.

“Prosecuting public officials, including police officers, requires a statute that clearly sets forth the element of the offense and may not be left open to general standards of behavior that the prosecutor or the community expects of public officials,” argued David Haney’s lawyers, Donald Samuel and Amanda Clark Palmer, of Atlanta in November 2021.

Brunswick Judge Anthony Harrison disagreed and denied their motions. 

The men were first accused of failing to investigate after being notified several times that an officer in the Glynn/Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team had an “innapropriate sexual relationship” with a confidential informant, according to the indictments.

In late 2017, different investigators within GBNET told superiors that officer James Cassada was having an affair with an informant, the indictments say. Even Cassada’s wife told officers, but no internal investigation nor administrative action was ever started as a result, the indictments allege. 

Cassada was having affairs with “one or more informants who were providing information to the police about drug offenses” and had problems with alcohol, Haney’s lawyers wrote in a filing.

The affair created problems for criminal prosecution, calling both the officer and the informant’s credibility into question, and led to the dismissal of dozens of drug charges, according to an article in The Brunswick News.

Cassada resigned from the force while under investigation in February 2019, his file states.

Chief Powell and his chief of staff, Scott, were also indicted for failing to start internal investigations after learning that a narcotics officer had a close friendship with a man convicted of selling methamphetamine.

Glynn County Police Department vehicle Credit: glynncounty.org

Powell also failed to investigate after he learned GBNET officers were working rogue investigations without approval in Camden County and in Florida, the indictment alleges. 

In the Florida case, GBNET officers asked a Glynn County Police officer to initiate a traffic stop on Feb. 22, 2018.

Then, when the traffic stop led to a crash where a passenger died, the GBNET officers asked that it be omitted “from (the officer’s) official report involving a fatality that GBNET officers had in fact initiated the traffic stop,” the indictment states.

Powell never started an internal investigation, it states.

Chief Powell and Scott (who was serving as Vidalia’s police chief when indicted) were both fired from their jobs, their files show. Hassler and Haney both retired in 2019.