Misconduct in GPD C.A.G.E. Unit tied to dismissal of nearly 100 charges; linked to man’s death, family says

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

One man is dead and nearly 100 criminal charges levied in a narcotics case investigated by the Griffin Police Department Criminal Apprehension and Gang Enforcement (C.A.G.E.) Unit were dismissed after it was discovered the lead agent, Officer Brian Dorety, failed to disclose his use of an informant with whom he was romantically involved.

Also not disclosed by Dorety was the fact that his informant, Toni Berryman, was previously involved in a long-term relationship and shared a child with a man targeted in that C.A.G.E. Unit narcotics case.

That man, Thomas Taylor, ultimately took his own life.

In a series of Open Records requests and interviews, The GRIP pieced together how this C.A.G.E. Unit investigation took these drastic turns.

The case was initiated in December 2021 with Dorety and fellow C.A.G.E. Unit agent, Officer Josh Holley, reportedly seeking to locate 19-year-old Caleb Sanford and a 15-year-old girl who were said to be staying in a Griffin motel.

That 15-year-old girl is directly related to Thomas Taylor, Berryman’s former boyfriend.

According to Dorety’s incident report, he made repeat visits to the Econo Lodge located at 1616 North Expressway as he allegedly sought to find the pair.

However, conflicting statements are noted as early as the opening paragraph of Dorety’s incident report where he detailed his version of the timeline.

Dorety said he initially visited the Econo Lodge on Dec. 1, obtaining a printout of who had rented rooms at the motel, with neither Sanford nor the 15-year-old female listed.

On the morning of Dec. 2, Dorety again spoke with the motel’s front desk attendant, showed them a photograph of Sanford and requested that he be notified if Sanford was seen.

In his report, Dorety further said that at 1:34 p.m. on Dec. 2, he and Holley were riding as a two-man unit when they performed a “knock and talk encounter” at the Econo Lodge.

“This officer (Dorety) did not have a room number at that time, only unverified information that both subjects may possibly be at this hotel,” he said.

Despite his written assertion that as of 1:34 p.m. Dec. 2, he “did not have a room number…only unverified information” regarding the whereabouts of Sanford and the 15-year-old girl, Dorety contradicted himself when he reported he was contacted by an Econo Lodge employee only a half-hour earlier, at approximately 1 p.m. that day.

“At approximately 1300 hours (1 p.m.) on 12/2/2021, this officer (Dorety) was advised by a front desk attendant that Sanford came and paid cash for room 210. I was further advised that the room was rented to a different male subject, identified as Thomas Taylor,” Dorety said.

Internal GPD disciplinary records from January 2022 further call into question details in Dorety’s report, specifically his claim that the “knock and talk encounter” was related to “a report” about Sanford and a 15-year-old female staying in the Econo Lodge, as that later document repeatedly cites only one basis for the Dec. 2, 2021, police action – “narcotic information.”

Within minutes of arriving at the Econo Lodge, not only Dorety and Holley as was stated in Dorety’s incident report, but altogether six agents of the Griffin Police Department C.A.G.E. Unit had converged upon and initiated a search of room 210 that would result in the arrest of two individuals, arrest warrants being issued for two more, with nearly 100 narcotics, gang-related, weapon and other charges between them. 

(Additional information regarding the C.A.G.E. Unit search of room 210 prior to the issuance of a search warrant as well as the dismissal of the charges will be published later today in Part 2 of this series.)

Thomas Taylor was among the individuals not present at Econo Lodge, but his family members say that within minutes of the search, they were notified of the incident by Agent Dorety’s girlfriend, Toni Berryman.

Less than three weeks later, Taylor was dead.

On Dec. 17, the father of five took his own life.

“We buried Thomas on Christmas Eve,” said Rebecca Baker, Taylor’s sister, who said their family attributes Taylor’s death to what they describe as misconduct by Agent Dorety.

“Yes, I honestly believe this led to his death. I don’t know what he was thinking. All I can do is go by his last words,” Baker said. “He knew he was fixing to possibly spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Baker acknowledges her brother had a troubled past, including having previously served time in prison, but said her brother was tormented by this separation from his family.

“He was on the run. He didn’t have a job. He’s not an alone person; he couldn’t be alone,” Baker said. “All he wanted to do was prove his innocence, but he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to fight these charges. He also knew how the Griffin Police Department is. He really tried to stay out of that area, especially after she (Toni Berryman) got that boyfriend (Dorety). He said he was not going to start over again and that Toni wasn’t going to just send him down that road.”

Publisher’s note – Additional articles in this investigative series will detail not only the motel room search, but later actions of C.A.G.E. Unit agents involved in this case, as well as what led to the dismissal of dozens of charges.

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