Sheriff’s Office seized, obtained evidence from David Gibson’s personal cell phone without search warrant

Spalding County Sheriff Wendell Beam's office has acknowledged graphic pornographic photographs and text messages used as evidence in the 2015 Internal Affairs investigation of David Gibson were obtained without a search warrant. Photo courtesy of the SCSO

Spalding County Sheriff Wendell Beam’s office has acknowledged graphic pornographic photographs and text messages used as evidence in the 2015 Internal Affairs investigation of David Gibson were obtained without a search warrant. Photo courtesy of the SCSO

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

The Grip has learned the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office did not obtain a search warrant prior to seizing, examining and collecting graphic pornographic photographs and text messages from a personal cell phone belonging to former Capt. David Gibson. The photos and messages – obtained in 2014 – were later used as evidence in the May 2015 Internal Affairs investigation that led to Gibson’s retirement in lieu of termination.

The investigation was conducted by Administrative Lt. Ronald Brainard, of the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, and through the evaluation of his 66-page final report, The Grip discovered the manner in which the pornographic photos and text messages were obtained in October 2014, more than six months prior to the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office authorization of the investigation.

An Open Records request submitted by The Grip to the SCSO on July 31 stated, “Pursuant to OCGA (Official Code of Georgia Annotated) 50-18-70, I (Sheila Mathews) am requesting the search warrant and all evidence presented as probable cause used in obtaining the search warrant that pertains to the seizure, review and collection of photographic evidence from the cell phone of David Gibson.”

The initial response from the SCSO received Aug. 3 stated, “In response to your Open Records request received by the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, Regarding your open records request dated 07-31-15 12:18 pm requesting the search warrant and all evidence seizure, review and collection of photographic evidence from the cell phone of David Gibson, no search warrant was needed due to the phone being a county issued cell phone. (sic all)”

The Grip responded with a more than 1,200-word rebuttal detailing its dissent with the SCSO’s response.

Outlined were eight separate references to Brainard’s report describing the actions used to take possession of the cell phone and obtain copies of the photographs and messages as well as repeated references describing the seized phone as Gibson’s “burner phone” or “throw down phone.”

Brainard’s report, in which he referenced his interview with SCSO employee Karen Law, who served as Gibson’s secretary, stated, “In October 2014, Captain Gibson was out of his office and at a staff meeting. Law heard a vibration of cell phone going off in his office and went in to investigate. She located the phone in a drawer and saw that it was a Verizon flip phone that was not his personal phone and was not the county phone. She opened it up and saw a photo of a man’s penis and a female’s vagina, which she assumed was Captain Gibson and (a subordinate female deputy’s) body parts. She (Law) called Ruby King, the Sheriff’s secretary, to have her verify the contents, and (King) took photos of those pictures as proof that they existed. (sic all)”

Brainard also confirmed the photos taken by King were the ones placed in his investigative case file, and that when questioned, Gibson and the female deputy admitted sending and receiving the photos and text messages.

The female subordinate deputy also alleged she was not a willing participant, but only took part in those actions because of Gibson’s long-term sexual harassment.

King, in her interview with Brainard, also substantiated the contents of the Verizon flip phone that Law located in Gibson’s office, the Houston County investigator reported. He also wrote that King acknowledged taking photos of the images contained in Gibson’s phone and providing them directly to Spalding County Sheriff Wendell Beam.

“She (King) did not know what action, if any, was taken,” Brainard wrote of King providing Beam with the graphic nude photos. “She thought the Sheriff did have a conversation with him (Gibson) about the incident.”

Brainard also recounted his interview with Gibson and their discussion of this cell phone incident.

Gibson claimed he received a text message following this “throw down” phone being taken from his office that said, “Resign, retire or be divorced.”

Brainard reported, “He (Gibson) stated he got the text after the burner phone was removed from his office…The fact that the phone was sent to his daughter was proof that someone was trying to get him to resign or retire or his wife would be told.”

The Grip also cited Brainard’s statement confirming the photos and messages retrieved from Gibson’s “burner phone” are the same ones provided to him by Capt. Tony Ranieri, the chief investigator of the SCSO’s Criminal Investigation Division.

In response to The Grip’s rebuttal, the SCSO responded by saying, “The Administrative Internal Investigation authorized by the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office regarding David Gibson did not involve a search warrant. A search warrant was not requested nor was one issued. Therefore, there are not any reports to provide regarding a search warrant.”

The Grip again rebutted the SCSO’s response, stating, “My (Sheila Mathews’) request strictly and clearly pertained to the search warrant and all evidence presented as probable cause to obtain the search warrant authorizing certified law enforcement officers and/or government actors – including, but not limited to, Karen Law, Ruby King, Sheriff Wendell Beam and Capt. Tony Ranieri – to seize, examine and obtain photographic evidence from the cell phone repeatedly identified in Administrative Lt. Ronald Brainard’s report as David Gibson’s ‘burner phone.’”

In response to The Grip’s second rebuttal, the SCSO acknowledged the phone in question was Gibson’s “burner phone,” and that no search warrant had been obtained.

“A search warrant was not requested or received. The pictures from the ‘Burner Phone’ were submitted to the Investigator conducting the Internal Investigation and became a part of the Internal Investigative File, (sic all)” stated SCSO Records Clerk Amy Martin.

Publisher’s note: The Grip will be printing a companion piece to this article in its Thursday, Aug. 20 edition. It will include information pertaining to an alleged connection between the 2014 seizure of Gibson’s cell phone that resulted in the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office obtaining the graphic pornographic photographs and text messages and the petition for declaratory judgment that was used to obtain a temporary restraining order that had kept sealed the Internal Affairs investigative final report against David Gibson.

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Comments

  1. Johnny Jones says:

    Awesome job Sheila Mathews. Keep peeling the layers back. Eventually the ” entire story ” will emerge. It’s hidden well. You’re getting there. Keep up the good work.

  2. Really this no ones business . Sad days ahead.

    • Really Dawn !?? It’s the communities right to know .Therefore ,It’s my business! It’s called karma and it’s spelled Ha.ha.ha.ha.Ha

  3. Keith Butler says:

    Why is there not a picture of the criminal on this report ? instead, you put a picture of the sheriff, when nothing wrong has been proven against him. Another media twist to stir the pot in my opinion. I hate the media.

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