UPDATE: A deputy commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety has delayed a ruling on Blake Swicord's appeal of his firing.
Earlier, state patrol spokesman Capt. Mark Perry said Deputy Commissioner Russell Powell expected to decide Thursday on whether to uphold Swicord's firing or overturn it or sake some other action.
Around noon, Perry wrote by email that Powell has delayed his decision. Swicord remains suspended with pay until a ruling. Powell has not set a date for his decision.
The commander of the Georgia State Patrol's Milledgeville post has been fired after allegedly giving guns to a convicted felon.
That's according to the Georgia State Patrol, who says Sgt. Blake Swicord has appealed his firing.
According to a state investigative report, those guns turned up when federal agents searched the Capital City nightclub in Milledgeville this year.
The state investigation also says:
- Swicord had a longtime friendship with that convicted felon.
- Took money to work security for the Luke Bryan Farm tour against his bosses' orders.
- Used his state patrol cell phone to send inappropriate, sexually explicit messages and photos.
- And asked a Tybee Island officer to "fix" a ticket for a female friend.
Swicord is also accused of lying to state investigators.
Capt. Mark Perry of the state patrol said a deputy commissioner was scheduled to rule on Swicord's appeal on Thursday, but that decision has been delayed.
Pending that decision, Perry says, Swicord is terminated at the close of business Thursday.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Swicord has been with the State Patrol since 2001. Before that, he was with the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office for six years. He is a 1995 graduate of Georgia Southern, according to LinkedIn.
SWICORD SUSPENDED AFTER BAR RAID
Earlier this year, the state patrol said Swicord was put on paid administrative leave March 2 while they investigated alleged policy violations. Swicord declined comment at that time.
The state patrol's case summary says the investigation started after the FBI raided two Milledgeville bars on Feb. 28. They found two handguns, formerly owned by the state patrol, in the possession of a convicted felon, Eugene Reagan "Trey" Britt III.
State records showed that Swicord bought the Glock .45GAP handguns from the state patrol in 2014 after it started using a different weapon.
An investigator who met with him in March said Swicord "apologized for how he had embarrassed the (state Department of Public Safety) and he knew the situation looked bad, but promised he had not done anything wrong."
Swicord also said FBI had "screwed up the search warrant" and that the evidence taken in the raid would be thrown out of court.
HE'S 'NO ANGEL'
Swicord said he hadn't broke any laws, but that he was concerned about possible state-patrol policy violations -- such as outside employment or associating with a criminal.
He told Capt. Allen Marlowe that he had known Trey Britt since college. He said Britt was "no angel" but was a "big law-enforcement supporter." He said Britt had gotten his right to carry weapons back after previous criminal convictions.
Swicord said the two men met in 1992, when he was playing football at Georgia Southern and worked as a bouncer at a bar owned by Britt.
Sometime later, Swicord said, he learned that Britt was convicted of kidnapping and burglary and served time in jail, according to the state patrol report.
After Britt got out of jail, the report said, he moved to Milledgeville and opened a bar there, the Briar Patch, with the help of some local businessmen, "to legitimize himself." That restaurant later became the Chop House.
According to Swicord, "Everyone pretty much knew that Trey owned the bar," but it was owned in the name of another businessman, "because Trey had legal issues at the time."
Even when he completed state-patrol school in 2001 and became a trooper, the report says, Swicord said "his relationship with Trey continued to develop into a friendship."
Swicord also said he gave Britt a $14,970 interest-free loan to help with the restaurant. In return, Swicord said, he got half-price meals for life.
Swicord told state investigators he had no ownership in the Capital City bar or the lofts over them.
He said he also cut a deal for his lawn-care company to maintain Britt's rental properties -- but their relationship was "strictly friendship."
"I know this guy and I helped him....I encouraged him to get his rights back and get his record expunged because he's a legitimate business guy."
The state report says investigators verified that Britt had received a pardon in 2011 that restored his right to carry firearms. The state patrol concluded that Swicord's sale of guns to Britt did not violate any state laws or policies.
GUNS FOR LUKE BRYAN TOUR
According to the investigative report, Swicord also told investigators that Trey Britt was tour manager for country music star Luke Bryan -- another Georgia Southern graduate.
He said it was customary to purchase "all the guys on tour" a gift at the end of the tour, and he had sold Britt four or five guys for that purpose.
ON TOUR WITH BRYAN
When an investigator asked if he had worked security during the Luke Bryan Farm Tour, Swicord said he had gone on the tour for the past three years. Swicord said he took two weeks leave each October to attend the tour.
Swicord noted that he applied to the state Public Safety commissioner to work security on the tour, but was turned down. The state patrol "did not want troopers working entertainment security."
So he told Luke Bryan that all he could do was "hang out, and that he could not get paid, no gun, no badge."
Swicord told investigators that he was not paid for working on the tour and was not paid "under the table." He attended strictly as a friend of Bryan, he said.
However, the report says, the state patrol obtained financial records from Bryan's organization that showed they paid Swicord $3,000 in 2016 and $2,500 in 2015, for "security."
In the Feb. 28 raid, FBI agents found records in Trey Britt's desk showing that the Bryan organization had paid Swicord a salary and expenses during the farm tour. Swicord said those records for "fabricated."
He said Bryan's managers had provided him a car during the tour only because band members often smoked marijuana on the tour bus and he didn't want to be around that.
On Oct. 26, the report says, Swicord took a lie detector test, where he was asked about gettig paid on the farm tour. The test operator wrote that his answers "were indicative of deception."
STATE PATROL SEIZES SWICORD'S PHONE
Also in March, the state patrol seized Swicord's work-issued iPhone.
The report says they found "numerous inappropriate (some sexually explicit" text messages and images that were not business-related.
They also show that Swicord told one man by text that the Chops restaurant was "his place" and another that "I do security for Luke Bryan."
SUPPORT ON FACEBOOK
When an investigator asked what other troopers would think about his connections to Britt and his inappropriate messages on his phone, Swicord reportedly said that "he believes his employees' confidence in him would be high, he is a good leader and employee, his troopers miss him," and he hasn't said "a negative word" about the state patrol.
Swicord also said he had received a lot of public support, and recommended that investigators check Facebook comments about his suspension.
STATE PATROL FINDINGS
State Patrol Capt. Les Wilburn wrote that he found 'overwhelming evidence" that Swicord had lied about getting paid on the Farm Tour.
He also wrote that Swicord was a close friend and business partner of Trey Britt, a convicted felon, for years before Britt received his pardon in 2011.
Wilburn also wrote that the numerous inappropriate texts on Swicord's phone included one where he asked another officer to check on a "citation from the beach" -- apparently, a citation at Tybee island, on behalf of a female friend.
The other officer responded that, "the citation will disappear by Monday."
"Swicord's conduct has eroded the trust the DPS Command Staff, his peers, his subordinates and the citizens of the state of Georgia had in him as a Georgia state trooper and supervisor," the report concludes.
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