LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Two Gwinnett deputies found themselves in trouble after an alcohol-filled Halloween party last year led to some embarrassing decisions.
At the heart of the case: a sex tape and admissions of underage drinking.
It all started the Saturday before Halloween 2018 at the Loganville home of Gwinnett County sheriff's deputy Anthony Persinger. A couple dozen off-duty deputies showed up in costume, some spending the evening playing beer pong and tossing back jello shots.
A female deputy had too much to drink and passed out in deputy Persinger's basement. She asked us not to use her name.
“While I was down there Anthony had come up to me and asked what the password to my phone was," she would later tell internal affairs investigators. "So he could set an alarm for my phone.”
But she woke up the next morning and realized her fellow deputy had done something else: found nude photos and videos she and her civilian boyfriend had taken, and at 2:29 that morning, Persinger copied all four files to his phone.
“To know that you could betray somebody to that level is mind blowing," complained the female deputy. "Uncalled for. Mind blowing. It puts a lot of things in perspective for me.”
In December, she filed an official complaint, accusing Persinger of leaving her “violated, disrespected and none the less broken.”
She didn't get much of an argument from Persinger.
“Yeah, I did it," he admitted to those same internal affairs investigators. "I don't know why I did it. I'm not proud of myself. Not one of my proudest moments. I'm ashamed of it.”
When he realized the day after the party he'd been caught, Persinger deleted the files. In a series of interviews, he told internal affairs investigators he never showed or shared those explicit pictures with anyone. He even passed a polygraph.
Last month, the county suspended Persinger for five days without pay, calling his actions for sending himself those sex photos “reprehensible.” He was also moved to the courthouse so he would not have any contact with the female deputy at the jail.
But Persinger would not be the only one punished in this case. So would that deputy who passed out in his basement. Not for what she had on her phone, but because of what she admitting doing at that Halloween party: drinking – when she's not yet 21 years old. Add to that, she said her fellow deputies knew that night she was underage.
“I said, oh, I really don't know if I'm going to drink tonight," she acknowledged telling the other deputies. "And they had said, well you're 21 tonight. And I said, OK cool.”
She doesn't turn 21 until this May.
“I found out she was underage," remembered Persinger. "She'd already been drinking. I didn't know how much.”
But he admitted he let her drinking continue. According to the internal affairs case, after consulting with the DA the sheriff's office decided not to file criminal charges. The female deputy would get a written reprimand for drinking underage, an outcome she seemed to be expecting.
“I know what I did was wrong," she agreed. "There's really no excuse. I knew it was wrong the second I started doing it. But that being said, I don't feel as if me even doing that could justify his actions. We have to try to get other people to trust us. And you can't even have your own co-workers trusting you. That's says a lot."