FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Records obtained by Channel 2 Action News show a former Forsyth County deputy sent confidential and privileged information to two women about multiple cases the department was working, prompting new calls for an outside agency to investigate whether he should face criminal charges.
Channel 2′s Mike Petchenik first reported in January that Corporal Mike Christian resigned from the sheriff’s office after it came to light he was sending the information to women with whom he was having extramarital affairs, according to an internal affairs report Petchenik obtained.
This week, a source sent Petchenik the full internal affairs document that shows the scope of the cases Christian was forwarding to the women, including emails about a person’s suicide, one about a domestic stabbing incident, and another about a homicide case. The emails contained names, addresses and other personal information and many were labeled as being for “law enforcement only.”
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The sheriff’s office opened the investigation after the women came forward to allege Christian misused his position to woo them into romantic relationships.
Petchenik first reported the women said Christian had also sent crime scene photos from the death of mother Tamla Horsford, who died under suspicious circumstances at an adult slumber party. Christian was the lead detective on the case, which was ruled accidental. Over the summer, Sheriff Ron Freeman asked the GBI to reopen the investigation to determine if Horsford, who fell to her death from a deck, died as the result of an accident or as the result of foul play.
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Even after Christian resigned his position, the sheriff found he had violated his oath of office, which could be considered a felony under Georgia law, punishable by up to five years in jail.
Petchenik asked the sheriff’s office whether criminal charges had been considered, and a spokeswoman told him:
“Our Office of Professional Standards in conjunction with some prosecutors have looked at the case and are not seeing statute violations. Though his actions are reprehensible, we are not seeing anything criminal.”
Both of Christian’s former girlfriends told Petchenik they believe he should be charged criminally for what he sent them.
“They’re not willing to charge him because it’s a PR nightmare for Forsyth County,” one told Petchenik.
Criminal defense attorney Lawrence Zimmerman, who is not affiliated with any of the cases, took a look at the internal affairs report and emails, and questioned whether the sheriff’s office should have conducted its own investigation.
“It’s kind of the wolf guarding the henhouse,” he said. “For law enforcement themselves to police one of their own, and then made them decide not to make a charge, it doesn’t look good for them. There should be objectivity.”
In a previous statement, Christian told Petchenik the internal affairs investigation did not paint him as the person he truly is. Petchenik reached back out to him about the new allegations, but did not hear back.
Meantime, Petchenik has also confirmed after the initial story about Christian aired, a GBI agent interviewed both women about their knowledge of the Horsford case.
“I was told from the get-go that it would be a confidential interview,” said one of the women. “My name wasn’t going to be released that no one would know what I said in my interview.”
After the interviews, both women said it came to their attention the lead GBI agent on the Horsford inquiry was close friends with a Forsyth County Deputy, who in turn was close with former Corporal Christian.
“Mike told me on several occasions that his good friend … was best friends with someone at the GBI, and that the officer of the GBI was telling (her) stuff about the Horsford case and then she was then relaying it to Mike,” the accuser claimed.
She said when she raised concerns about a possible conflict of interest, within hours, the Forsyth County deputy and GBI agent had blocked both women from being able to view anything on their personal Facebook pages.
“How is the GBI supposed to review local agencies, their officers and their officers’ work and be impartial if they are all best friends?” said the woman.
Both women have now filed internal affairs complaints against the GBI agent, which an agency spokeswoman confirmed.
GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles responded to the woman’s accusations:
“The GBI continues to conduct an independent and impartial investigation of Horsford’s death. So far, there has been no evidence provided to support allegations that the GBI case is compromised. None of the individuals that you named are the subject of the GBI’s investigation. The subject is the death of Tamla Horsford, a case that we were requested to investigate by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, no conflict has been established and there has been no evidence provided from anyone that information relevant to the Horsford death investigation has been shared thus creating a conflict.”
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