Fulton deputy pleads not guilty to corruption, drug charges

A Fulton County Sheriff’s Deputy pleaded not guilty in federal court Friday afternoon to corruption, drug and firearm charges.

A grand jury indicted Anthony Atwater on Tuesday on five charges, including extortion and aiding and abetting cocaine distribution after federal agents said he was protecting suspected drug dealers in January and in March.

He was arrested Friday morning during roll call.

Atwater appeared briefly before U.S. Magistrate Russell Vineyard at 1:30 p.m. A bond hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday at 3 p.m. He will remain in jail until then.

Atwater, who lives in Atlanta, is accused of protecting drug dealers two different times as they were trying to distribute at least 500 kilograms of a mixture that contained cocaine, according to his criminal indictment. Atwater was given $4,000 to protect the dealers during drug transactions made on Jan. 23 and March 12, the U.S. the document said.

Atwater also used a firearm to help protect the suspected drug dealers, according to the indictment.

Atwater's court-appointed attorney, Tom Hawker, as well as his fiancee declined to talk to reporters after the hearing.

“He chose to protect suspected drug dealers for his personal benefit rather than protect the public as he is sworn to do,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement.

The Fulton County Sheriff’s department has been aware of the FBI’s investigation of Atwater since January, Sheriff Ted Jackson said.

The Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigations unit is also working on this case.

Atwater, 32 was hired as a deputy sheriff on February 27, 2002.  He is  on indefinite suspension without pay pending further notice which is standard procedure.

“When an officer who has taken the oath to serve and protect violates the law, it tarnishes and damages the reputations of those who are committed to doing the right thing,” Jackson said.