‘It’s all about the money’: Sheriff discusses arrests of jailers

Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 10:27 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree held a news conference Tuesday to address the number of jailers who have been arrested and how authorities are taking accountability.

The news conference followed the June 24 arrest of a deputy accused of bringing contraband into the jail.

The sheriff says Deputy Arrington Mursier was seen on camera leaving his assigned workstation and going to another housing unit. He removed an inmate from their cell, and they went into a storage closet, where an unknown object was seen, according to the sheriff.

Roundtree says a large amount of synthetic marijuana, also known as K2, was found.

The deputy and the inmate were both charged with Schedule I narcotic with intent to distribute, conspiracy to distribute Schedule I narcotic. The deputy was also charged with violation of oath by a public officer.

Roundtree says deputies were watching a camera and said the activity was suspicious.

A search of Mursier’s home led to other pre-packaged bags found for potential distribution, the sheriff said. Roundtree said it has an estimated street value of $195,000.

Roundtree said more charges and arrests are expected.

Since September 2021, 24 Richmond County road deputies, deputy jailers and investigators have been arrested on a variety of offenses. Eight were arrested over matters not related to work and 10 of the remaining 16 arrests were linked to contraband being brought into the jail, according to Roundtree.

He said, “We as a command staff constantly ask ourselves, ‘Are we doing something wrong?’”

Roundtree says his staff members have “beaten themselves up” to figure out why people are throwing away their careers. He says they make it clear that the inmates are going to approach and manipulate them. He says this is a personal conversation he has with everyone who’s hired.

“We’re just expanding that footprint to get a deeper look into individuals, their past relationships and those type things to see if we can see if there’s any kind of red flags or traction or propensity to be manipulated,” said Roundtree.

Roundtree added that people bring in contraband, but the amount surprised him. All of these things have been addressed, but still, the only constant possible motive is monetary gain.

“It’s all about the money,” said Roundtree.

Officials say the individuals have been paid well over $2,000 per drop to bring in contraband.

“This is untaxable, untraceable money if you don’t get caught,” said Roundtree.

“We didn’t think it was at that level. Depending on the amount of product of what has been brought in seems to be the motivation there,” said Roundtree.

He says almost 10 percent of the jail population is charged with murder.

“This job is hard. We respond to four times the calls of service of any of our law enforcement neighbors,” said Roundtree. “There’s no comparison for what our guys do.”

Roundtree says this investigation has revealed several elements of multilayer offenders and long-term gang involvement.

“We will continue to hold the light, and we will continue to hold our people accountable. We are dedicated to the security and safety of our citizens,” he said.


Roundtree says it’s almost impossible to track and monitor the behavior of the deputy jailers within their 12-hour shift. He says authorities are looking to monitor the access the employees have coming in and out of the facility.

“We’ve always gone to the clear bag policies, but we’ve seen that some of these items are being smuggled in,” said Roundtree.

The agency is looking to incorporate full-body scanners and 24/7 supervision.

“That is also a financial burden that we’re gonna have to look and look into to try to find, but right now, that appears to be our best course of action to keep contraband from coming in,” he said.

“Any time we have to lock up one of our own, it hurts the entire organization,” he said. “We were caught off guard.”

He says authorities are discussing having a pay incentive to increase the quality of people being hired.

“This is a much bigger case than a deputy bringing contraband into the jail,” said Roundtree.

He says employees should be compensated for the amount of work they do. Roundtree hopes the Augusta Commission will find a way to see the work the deputies do.

“We did not know how lucrative the contraband business was. Contraband is always going to be an element of prison, but there won’t be that level of temptation if they know their bills are paid and their children are taken care of. They can avoid the temptation of the inmates,” said Roundtree.

He says the monetary incentive is to avoid the temptation. He says the inmates’ goal is to manipulate the deputies.

“That’s what they do,” said Roundtree.

“That enticement of the person is making several thousands of dollars if they’re inclined. And again, this is untaxable untraceable money if you don’t get caught,” said Roundtree.

“My jail is overcrowded, and the deputies are underpaid. That is a bad combination when it comes to temptation, but that doesn’t give them the right to go against that oath,” the sheriff said.

He says going forward, he will continue to hold the deputies accountable, and he is serious about their oath.

“We take pride in that, and we’re not going to let people get fired and get a job somewhere else. We know that happens, but we are not going to do that. This is not a good look for us. This is not a good look for me. But we are going to stand up, and we are going to take accountability and look for ways to improve,” said Roundtree.

He wants the public to know his agency has more than 700 employees who are doing what is right every day.

“By being the sheriff, I know this responsibility falls on me, and I know I have so many good people that are doing the right thing,” said Roundtree.

During the news conference, he also addresses the sheriff’s office on the cyber attack. He says the sheriff’s office is fully functioning and there is no interruption in service.