A sheriff’s deputy in one Georgia county was reprimanded only minimally after taking a sports car for a spin after a DUI arrest.
Public records show that Towns County deputy Christian Daugirdas took a $70,000 Corvette for an excursion after the arrest of a motorist for suspicion of driving under the influence.
In the early morning hours of September 5, 2021, Sgt. Jacob Taylor, an active duty Army Ranger, was driving on U.S. Highway 76 in Towns County when he was pulled over by the Towns County Sheriff’s Office. Taylor was driving a 2015 White Chevrolet Corvette, which belonged to a friend. After a handful of field sobriety tests and the refusal by Taylor to submit to a blood or breath test, he was placed under arrest.
Deputies charged Taylor with Driving Under the Influence and Laying Drag, both misdemeanor offenses. The tickets issued to him were timestamped 12:24 a.m., denoted ‘Arrested’ in the signature line of the citations, and Taylor was transported to the jail. The arresting officer, TCSO Deputy Adam Gillette, subsequently obtained a search warrant for the blood of Taylor from a Magistrate Judge at 1:45 a.m.
The Joy Ride
In the interim, another deputy awaited the arrival of a tow truck for the vehicle to be impounded. GPS records show that the deputy, now identified as Deputy Christian Daugirdas, drove the Corvette after fellow deputies took Taylor into custody and delivered him to the jail.
Daugirdas, apparently unaware that the vehicle was equipped with a GPS tracking device linked to an app, was captured taking a joy ride at 1:09 a.m. The owner of the vehicle was notified of the whereabouts of the vehicle and the speed at which it traveled. Sources close to Taylor say the GPS records show speeds topping 100 mph well after 1:00 a.m. on September 5, 2021. The GPS coordinates correspond with locations on U.S. Hwy 76.
Ironically, the speed limit on U.S. Hwy 76 in Georgia ranges from 45 mph to 70 mph. Driving at a speed of 100 mph would constitute, at a minimum, a Reckless Driving charge and a Super Speeder offense.
After the ride, Deputy Daugirdas returned the vehicle to the location of the traffic stop and awaited its towing. A tow company towed the vehicle to a lot in accordance with county policy.
Taylor now has different legal representation, according to court records, however, his attorney in the weeks following the arrest told The Towns Observer, a local news publication, this:
“A lot of power is given to local law enforcement to administer and enforce the law. This case calls the Towns County Sheriff’s Office’s integrity into serious question. We have undisputed proof of abuse of power and misuse of property while my client was detained on charges.”
The local publication also suggested that deputies at the county jail told Taylor that a deputy would not do such a thing. They reportedly discouraged Taylor’s formal complaint and repeatedly emphasized that the report would be used against him if he lied.
At some point after Taylor’s arrest and before he retrieved the impounded vehicle, the vehicle sustained damage to the front end. The obviously apparently damage prompted Taylor’s return to the Sheriff’s Office to file a complaint.
A key fob with a price tag of $1,000 belonging to Taylor’s own vehicle, a Cadillac, was missing from the Corvette upon Taylor’s release. Interestingly, Daugirdas texted Taylor about the fob – and other things – in the wake of Taylor discovering the joy ride took place.
Taylor was reportedly contacted by Daugirdas on multiple occasions via text message and phone call from a 561 area code number. 561 is an area code for Florida and social media posts indicate that Daugirdas was a law enforcement officer in Brevard County, Florida before he moved to Georgia.
Sheriff Kenneth Henderson suspended Daugirdas for two weeks, without pay, but opted not to voluntarily report the offense to the Georgia Peace Officer Standards & Training Council (POST).
Under POST Rule 464-3-.05 and.06, an employing agency must only notify POST of a suspension in excess of 30 days, a demotion, a discharge for disciplinary reasons, or a resignation in lieu of termination. The seemingly minimal application
According to POST records, Daugirdas became POST certified in mid-2020 and began working with the Towns County Sheriff’s Office in August 2020.
TCSO Responds to Complaint Against Daugirdas
Five weeks after Taylor’s arrest, the official TCSO Facebook page posted a statement, in which the office suggested that Daugirdas moved the vehicle ‘to get the vehicle on a flat surface to avoid damaging it during loading.’ The post says Daugirdas admitted to driving the vehicle ‘a short distance’ before bringing it back to the location and positioning it to be loaded onto the wrecker.
At that time, the case ‘remained under investigation.’ The Sheriff’s Office noted that it named Daugirdas Employee of the Month in February 2021 and commended him for ‘the highest amount of drug and DUI arrests.’ He’d been employed as a Georgia law enforcement officer for just seven months at the time.
The post garnered 100+ comments before the Towns County Sheriff’s Office turned off comments on the post.
NOTE: The courts, including SCOTUS, have repeatedly held that government entities may not censor comments based on viewpoint and once a forum is open for public discourse, it must remain open for all. For Georgia reference, See Szilagyi v. Johnson in Savannah, GA.
TGV filed an Open Records Request for the personnel policy of the Towns County Sheriff’s Office and as of publishing, TCSO had not responded.
Towns County is located within the Enotah Judicial Circuit of the Superior Court Ninth District. After more than a year, Taylor’s case is still pending in Towns County. Court records show arraignment for the case is in the first week of October.
Towns County Sheriff’s Office in the News
Sheriff Kenneth Henderson’s media coverage in the last year has been less than favorable. Over the summer, video captured Henderson in a roadside dispute with a Sergeant from the Hiawassee Police Department and later, another video surfaced in which he called HPD ‘the enemy.’ A third video followed, in which an un-uniformed and irate Henderson, who never identified himself to the motorist, made a traffic stop in an unmarked vehicle.
Henderson was first sworn in in 2021. Prior to serving as the county’s top law enforcement officer, he worked for 38 years as the Chief of Police at Young Harris College after helping establish the agency in 1984.