DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A local district attorney said stripping the badge away from an officer accused of bribery was more important than putting him in jail.
Brandon Brown, 28, pleaded guilty to two counts of violation of oath by a public official and one count of simple battery.
He agreed to a deal in which he received three years on probation for the crimes.
Prosecutors said cellphone video of the former DeKalb County officer shows Brown forcing a man to give him money in exchange for not giving him a $500 citation for marijuana possession at the Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant in 2013. Prosecutors also said Brown confessed.
But during a plea hearing, Assistant District Attorney Buffy Thomas didn't recommend jail time. "The state's recommendation is he be sentenced to three years’ probation as to counts one and two, violation of oath by public officer."
She also recommended 12 months on probation for the simple battery charge. Prosecutors said that stemmed from when Brown yanked the phone from the woman who recorded the encounter and grabbed her. The judge agreed with the recommendation, adding Brown must pay a $1,000 fine or work that amount off doing community service.
Channel 2's Tom Jones asked DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James why he didn't seek jail time. "The main focus of this was ensuring that this individual never wore the badge again," he said.
James also said Brown hadn't been arrested before, and the amount of the bribe also played a role. "We're not talking about thousands of dollars. We're talking about $50 here," James said.
Prosecutors said Brown told the patron he really needed the $50. "The defendant stated he needed the money to purchase a tag for his vehicle," Thomas said.
Brown's attorney said he was extremely remorseful and made an awful mistake.
Brown also agreed to surrender his Georgia Peace Officers' certification. But the judge was concerned that he could go to another state and become an officer, so he denied a request to give Brown first offender treatment. "I'm not going to let him have it. He doesn't need to be a police officer anywhere," Judge Dan Coursey said.
James said that was the whole point of the plea deal. "He's never going to be a police officer again."
Brown was off duty at the time. The judge initially agreed to give him first offender treatment, then decided it was better to keep the felony on his record even after he finishes probation.