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Chad Nichols: Georgia County Sheriff Arrested for Sexual Battery, Public Indecency

The sheriff of a mountainous north Georgia county has been arrested and charged with sexual battery, public indecency, and violation of his oath. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Rabun County Sheriff Chad Nichols, 45, turned himself in on Friday and was bookedinto the Rabun County Detention Center.

The state agency said it was asked to investigate by Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Christian. A news release from the district attorney’s office said the incident under investigation took place this month, The Clayton Tribune reported.

“Bond was set at a total of $32,500 and included many conditions of bond, including that he shall not directly or indirectly, be involved in and/or direct any law enforcement activities in his personal capacity or his capacity as Sheriff of Rabun County,” according to the district attorney’s office.

The DA’s office said the sexual battery and public indecency charges are misdemeanors, while the oath violation charge is a felony.

The GBI is still investigation, both the district attorney and the state agency said. GBI said it will turn over its case file to the DA once the investigation is complete.

A statement from the sheriff’s office said Major Beth Darnell, a 14-year veteran of the agency who oversees the detention center and court services, will serve as “acting-in-charge” while the investigation continues.

The county’s Board of Commissioners released a statement saying it was aware of Nichols’ arrest and “will gather information and react as appropriate,” the Tribune reported. The board has called a special meeting for June 3 with a single agenda item: to “consider going into executive session to talk about potential litigation.”

“The Board of Commissioners of Rabun County is aware of the arrest and charge of the Rabun County Sheriff. The Board will gather information and react as appropriate. The GBI and Governor’s Office is aware of the situation,” according to the statement.

Nichols, the former police chief of the town of Baldwin, is currently running for a third term as Rabun County sheriff and finished second in the Republican primary on May 21. His chief opponent, former Rabun County deputy Mark Gerrells, fell short of a majority of the vote however, and both men are on the ballot for a run-off on June 18.

According to WXIA, Nichols began work as a jailer in Rabun County in 1998 and worked his way up to dispatcher, deputy, and patrol division sergeant before running for and winning the sheriff’s spot in 2016.

Rabun County, in the far northeast corner of the state bordering North Carolina and South Carolina, is a popular tourist destination hosting three state parks and numerous waterfalls, trails, lakes, and vineyards. The Appalachian Trail follows much of the county’s western line.

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