Rabun County sheriff arrested by GBI, charged with sexual battery

The Rabun County sheriff's race took an unexpected turn Friday, with the arrest of Sheriff Chad Nichols, who is running for re-election. 

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has arrested the Rabun County Sheriff as part of an investigation into accusations of sexual battery.

The GBI announced that 45-year-old Sheriff Chad Nichols is in custody charged with public indecency, sexual battery and violation of oath by a public officer.

The GBI issued a written statement saying in part: 

"On Friday May 24, Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Christian asked the GBI to investigate an incident involving Nichols. Nichols turned himself in Friday and was booked into the Rabun County Detention Center. This investigation is active and ongoing."  

GBI agents say they were asked by Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Christian to investigate "an incident" involving the sheriff on May 24.

Rabun County Sheriff Chad Nichols (Rabun County Sheriff)

Nichols turned himself in and is now in custody at the Rabun County Detention Center.

Authorities have not shared any details about the investigation or the alleged incident. The investigation is ongoing.

A source tells FOX 5 the alleged incident happened at a local business where the sheriff was staging a campaign rally the day of the primary election, May 21. 

The victim reportedly told investigators the sheriff first tried to get her alone in the building, but she refused. She also reportedly then later witnessed Nichols naked, performing a sexual act. 

Bond was set at $32,500. As a condition of his release, Sheriff Nichols cannot directly be involved in, and/or direct any law enforcement activities in his personal capacity, or his capacity as Sheriff of Rabun County. 

Rabun County Sheriff Chad Nichols (Rabun County Sheriff's Office)

Rabun County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Kevin Angell said Major Beth Darnell will assume the sheriff's role in the interim. 

"There is a runoff election going off on June 18, where there is another candidate, and so presumably once that election is over decisions will be made. They can even be made as far as decisions being made by the Governor, to appoint that person immediately. But as of right now we support Major Beth Darnell, she is great for the agency. We support her, she will become our chief deputy and fill that role until the end of the year." 

After the investigation is done, the case file will be given to the Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney for prosecution.