A former longtime Dawson County Sheriff's deputy accused of inappropriate sexual conduct while on duty has pleaded guilty to the charges against him.
Mark Louis Caruana, 48, of Lumpkin County admitted Feb. 16 that he had lied to investigators when questioned about an incident reported by a 24-year-old Dawson County woman in September.
In addition to the felony false statements charge, Caruana also pleaded guilty to one count each of misdemeanor sexual battery and simple battery and was sentenced as a first offender to five years of probation.
He must also relinquish his police certification, pay a $1,000 fine and have no contact with the woman or her family.
Caruana had faced a maximum of five years in prison.
According to court documents, Caruana had responded to a legitimate call at the woman's south Dawson home Sept. 27. He then returned that night and touched her inappropriately.
Caruana, who had been with the department since December 2001, was terminated a day after the complaint surfaced.
Dawson County Sheriff's Lt. Col. John Cagle said the matter progressed through the court system as any other case would and Caruana received no special treatment.
"He was treated no different than anyone else that would be facing the same charges," Cagle said. "It was his decision in conjunction with his attorney to plead guilty."
The allegations led to an internal investigation, which was later turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation due to the seriousness of the charges.
Details of the incident, other than that it was sexual in nature and occurred while Caruana was on duty, were not made public.