ATLANTA - A north Georgia sheriff was behind bars Tuesday morning, charged with lying to state investigators to protect a deputy accused of firing shots into the home of his wife's lover.
Towns County Sheriff Rudy Eller turned himself in to Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents at about 10 a.m. at the White County Detention Center. White County is the southern neighbor of Towns County, which sits on the North Carolina state line in northeast Georgia.
The GBI says Eller lied to them about a handgun they believe was used in a July 9 drive-by shooting at the home of Gary Dean of Hiawassee. Dean was "involved in an ongoing intimate relationship" with the wife of Towns County Chief Deputy Eddie Osborn, according to a GBI affidavit.
The affidavit says Eller originally told investigators that he had been keeping the semiautomatic firearm for Osborn for several weeks. He said he had cleaned the weapon and tried to replace a missing screw.
When agents told him they believed the gun was used to fire about 10 shots into Dean's home, Eller "changed his story and admitted to the agents that he had not been truthful with them earlier in the interview," according to the affidavit.
The affidavit says Eller told investigators that Osborne gave him the gun the morning of July 9 and admitted firing shots into Dean's home. Agents say Eller told them Osborn asked him to tell investigators he'd had the gun for "a couple of months."
The report says Eller also admitted that when he requested a GBI investigation of the July 9 shooting he already knew who had fired the shots.
Eller faces charges of making false statements, tampering with evidence, hindering and obstructing law enforcement officers and violating his oath as a public officer.
He was being held Tuesday morning on $250,000 bond. GBI spokesman John Bankhead said the sheriff was still being processed shortly before noon and was expected to post bond and be released.
The GBI typically handles investigations involving local law enforcement officers. Bankhead said arrests of top officials are uncommon.
"They happen, but it is rare," Bankhead said. "It's an unfortunate situation."
Osborn, 41, and Deputy Jessie Gibson, 56, face aggravated assault and obstruction charges in the shooting.
Agents said when they interviewed Osborn he denied any knowledge of the shooting, but acknowledged that he had driven by Dean's home at least twice on the day before the shooting hoping to fight him if he was alone.
Dean and a roommate were at home at the time of the shooting. Neither was injured in the shooting.