Tales continue to emerge from the scandal that led to the dissolution of the Glynn-Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team. A defense filing Wednesday in a vehicular homicide case involving GBNET investigators contends former Glynn County Police Officer Kevin Yarborough — who is a key player in the case — lacks credibility, as do numerous other current and former GCPD officers.
Defense attorney Newell Hamilton argues in the filing, “The validity of the attempted stop of (Katelyn Elizabeth) Jones’ vehicle hinges not only on the credibility of Mr. Yarborough, but on GCPD as a whole to include Chief (John) Powell, (Lt.) Cheri Bashlor, Lt. David Haney, Lt. Eric Naugle, Mr. David Hassler, Mr. (James) Cassada, GBNET and GCPD members involved in these events, and Vidalia Police Department Chief Brian Scott.”
As discussed in prior hearings in this and other matters, GBNET officers participated in controversial behavior in February 2018 that led to the chase and wreck of the suspects’ vehicle, and the death of Stephen Wayne Deloach, who was a passenger in the vehicle with Jones.
According to testimony provided in court, GBNET officers instigated a controlled methamphetamine purchase that involved officers traveling through Camden County and into Nassau County, Fla., conducting surveillance there and back, and ordering a stop of the vehicle believed to be containing meth once it began to cross through Glynn County.
The GBNET officers did not have police power in Camden and Nassau — under the law they were like anyone else — and further, they did not coordinate with law enforcement in these counties or let law enforcement in those counties know what they were doing when they were doing it.
That’s where Yarborough comes in. He initiated the traffic stop on Jones’ vehicle, and Jones has a motion to suppress before the court to suppress the traffic stop procedure. At an August hearing, Superior Court Judge Anthony Harrison said he’d only consider relevant what Yarborough believed in initiating the stop, but the proffer put forward by Jones argues Yarborough can’t be believed.
According to the proffer, Yarborough’s application to GCPD in 2010 “reflected negative experiences with prior employers, prior job loss, numerous traffic violations, a prior driver’s license suspension for a points violation, as well as recreational marijuana usage.”
It also states that when he was arrested March 4 for driving under the influence, he was on paid leave while in an early intervention program because of a diagnosis for schizophrenia. GCPD terminated Yarborough two months later.
The GBNET matter was unraveling at roughly the same time GCPD leadership became aware of Yarborough’s diagnosis. It was Jan. 30 when Investigator Meredith Tolley reported her concerns about allegations against former Investigator James Cassada, and the next day Tolley, Brunswick Police Sgt. Mike Davis and GCPD Investigator Dustin Davis took these allegations to the District Attorney’s Office, which suggested they take the allegations to GCPD Lt. Jeremiah Bergquist.
On Feb. 1, GCPD Chief John Powell became aware of the Cassada allegations. On Feb. 2, the department placed Yarborough on indefinite employee assistance program leave “after Lt. Naugle expressed concerns about Mr. Yarborough’s recent work performance and appears concerned Mr. Yarborough poses a safety risk to citizens due to his schizophrenia if he is placed under stress.”
A roadside discussion following the wreck, between Yarborough and GCPD leadership, allegedly led him to falsify the report on the matter to omit evidence GBNET officers were involved in law enforcement actions outside of their jurisdiction.
Further, “On or about Feb. 28, (2018), according to … Bashlor, Mr. (Tommy) Tindale approached her and advised her that he believed that Mr. Yarborough was not telling the truth in the report he filed that was forwarded to the State Patrol….”
Mike Davis followed this with an altered but “still factually inaccurate” report, and on March 1, Yarborough wrote Powell a letter to give his side of the story, “that he and GBNET investigators discussed that specific details were to be included in the report. He went on to say that it had been decided the prior illegal surveillance in Florida would not be included in the report, but the probable cause for the traffic stop would be….”
Davis, a Brunswick Police sergeant assigned to GBNET, met with Yarborough on March 7, 2018, and Yarborough told him Tindale accused Yarborough of lying on the report and told him to create a new report showing GBNET involvement. Davis subsequently sent an email to Hassler detailing what happened.
Others with credibility issues
The filing also notes that Judge Roger Lane’s order in the Gary Whittle matter — an order that paved the way for reassessing dozens of criminal cases — includes Cassada and Dustin Davis, who were both involved in the Jones incident, and whose credibility is suspect because of that order.
The defense alleges Tolley, by coming forward, opened herself to retribution, as “in a blatant attempt at the character assassination of a witness providing evidence against GCPD, Capt. Tom Jump reported to Chief of Staff Brian Scott that … Jump’s stepson, GCPD Investigator Joseph Butler, provided him with information that … Tolley ‘may have come into work in the past smelling of marijuana.’”
There’s also the matter of Tindale’s exit from GCPD. The defense states that because of his stance regarding the “errors and omissions” in Yarborough’s initial and subsequent reports, he was forced into retirement.
For instance, the filing states that on March 8, 2018, Powell assigned Hassler to handle the Yarborough situation and “to conduct an investigation in part against Mr. Tindale for intervening and correcting Mr. Yarborough’s lies concerning a vehicular homicide against Ms. Jones that was rapidly being manufactured….
“Around that same time, Chief Powell directed Lt. David Haney, a personal friend of his and a GCPD subordinate, to investigate Mr. Tindale for making … comments about Chief Assistant Brian Scott, a newly appointed member of the GCPD command staff who was allegedly the subject of ridicule by everyone from members of the District Attorney’s Office and the Glynn County Sheriff’s Department to GCPD itself, calling Chief Assistant Scott unkind names such as Mini Me, Chief’s Little Shadow, Minion, Commodore, and the Little Admiral.”
Tindale retired at the end of June 2018.
The defense wants a chance to, in its words, complete its cross-examination of Yarborough. His last testimony came before the GCPD handed over a flash drive filled with around 18 gigabytes of discovery evidence that raised further questions as to the legality of the traffic stop he initialized.
The filing states Yarborough contacted defense counsel in September about documents related to GCPD actions following his schizophrenia diagnosis, which the defense turned over. At that meeting, defense counsel and a defense investigator told Yarborough he remained under subpoena and would be called to testify at the next hearing Sept. 27.
“He said he would be there, but did not appear,” according to the filing. “His whereabouts are unknown, and he appears unwilling to show up for court.”