A former longtime Dawson County Sheriff's deputy has been charged with sexual battery and false statements following a probe by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Mark Louis Caruana, 48, of Lumpkin County was booked Tuesday morning on the charges, which stem from alleged inappropriate sexual conduct while on duty.
Caruana, who was also charged with simple battery, was released from the Dawson County Detention Center a short time later after posting a $5,200 bond, according to jail records.
The charges resulted from a complaint filed Sept. 27 by a 24-year-old Dawson County woman.
The woman told officers Caruana, who had responded to a legitimate call at her south Dawson home earlier in the day, returned to her house that night.
Capt. Tony Wooten said Caruana made inappropriate statements and touched the woman in a sexual manner on the second visit.
"That allegation led to our chief deputy [Lt. Col. John Cagle] looking into the allegation in house," Wooten said.
"He believed there was enough evidence, based on his investigation, to terminate Deputy Caruana shortly after his investigation was complete."
Caruana, who had been with the department since December 2001, was terminated Sept. 28, one day after the alleged incident.
Due to the nature and severity of the allegations, authorities contacted the GBI.
"We didn't want to give anybody the perception that we were trying to protect one that worked for us," Wooten said. "We believe we should be held to a higher standard than others, because of the job that we chose and the oath that we take to do our jobs.
"Our employees have to know that if they cross that line, like anybody else, they will be treated the same."
Specifics of the incident, other than that it was sexual and Caruana was on duty as a patrol officer at the time, have not been released.
Cagle said he quickly recognized the potential for criminal charges.
"The public should know the sheriff takes this kind of alleged misconduct extremely serious," Cagle said. "The alleged conduct warranted the action taken in this case."
Cagle said Caruana also violated numerous department policies and admitted to conduct unbecoming of an officer.
Attempts to reach Caruana for comment were not successful.
According to Wooten, the former deputy has applied for representation with the public defender.