Two deputies with the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office have resigned in lieu of termination this week after the completion of two separate internal affairs investigations into battery allegations and sexual misconduct allegations.
The first internal affairs investigation began following a deputy's arrest stemming from a domestic dispute. On Saturday, May 3, 2014, the Newton County Sheriff's Office responded to a domestic violence call just after 1 AM at the residence of RCSO Deputy Chad Stuarte. Stuarte, 26, of Covington, was arrested at the scene by the Newton County Sheriff's Office and is facing a charge of Battery - Family Violence. He was later booked into the Newton County Jail. Personnel from the RCSO's Office of Professional Standards were notified and responded to the scene. Deputy Stuarte was immediately placed on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.
In addition to the circumstances of his recent arrest, the internal affairs investigation also revealed an unreported incident from December 2013 in which Deputy Stuarte admitted to intentionally discharging his department-issued service weapon into the floor of his home during an argument with his wife. Deputy Stuarte failed to report this incident, as required by RCSO policy, and took additional steps to conceal the discharge. This investigation concluded on Thursday, May 8, 2014. During the disciplinary hearing to address the allegations of policy violations, Deputy Stuarte resigned in lieu of termination. Deputy Stuarte began his career with the RCSO in 2008 as a deputy sheriff assigned to the jail and became a certified deputy sheriff assigned to Uniform Patrol in 2010, where he had been serving until his arrest.
In the second internal affairs investigation concluded this week, Deputy Loretta Hernandez, 39, also resigned in lieu of termination during a disciplinary hearing. This internal affairs investigation started as a result of allegations that Deputy Hernandez was derelict in her duties and, in another incident, failed to respond to the help request of another deputy who was on a fight call. The internal affairs investigation took an unexpected turn when it was discovered that Deputy Hernandez had engaged in several incidents of sexual activity while on duty.
During the course of the investigation, Deputy Hernandez originally withheld information and facts from the internal affairs investigator. Later, Deputy Hernandez admitted to having sexual intercourse on at least three separate occasions with an acquaintance that she had known for less than one year. In all three instances, Deputy Hernandez was on duty and in uniform. In at least two of the incidents, she was in her full uniform and in her marked RCSO patrol unit in public. In the third incident, Deputy Hernandez, while on duty, was outside of her patrol car inside a local business that was closed. In at least one of incidents in which she admittedly was having sex on duty, Deputy Hernandez admitted to being dispatched to a call for service and delaying her response until to the sexual act was completed.
Deputy Hernandez was placed on paid administrative leave on April 25, 2014 when the allegations first came to light. The RCSO's Office of Professional Standards conducted the internal affairs investigation with the assistance of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Polygraph Unit. The investigation was concluded on Thursday, May 8, 2014 with Deputy Hernandez resigning in lieu of termination. Deputy Hernandez began her career with the RCSO in 2008 as a deputy sheriff assigned to the jail and became a certified deputy sheriff assigned to Uniform Patrol in 2010, where she had been serving until being placed on administrative leave.
"The circumstances that led to these resignations are truly embarrassing to each of the hardworking men and women of the RCSO who are out here making our county safe and keeping our jail secure," said Chief Deputy Scott Freeman. "Every employee at the RCSO is held to a higher standard of conduct and professionalism, which is something that the citizens of this county deserve and will receive from the employees of the RCSO. Misconduct or criminal acts have no place in the law enforcement profession and are not going to be tolerated at the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office. The actions of both deputies are both disappointing and heartbreaking for them, their families and for all of the members of RCSO."