A Lumpkin County man accused of impersonating a police officer will spend 24 months on probation after his charges were reduced.
Charles McElroy Turner, 42, also must perform 250 hours of community service according to a deal announced Thursday afternoon in Forsyth County Superior Court.
Turner had faced two counts of impersonating a police officer and two counts of false imprisonment.
The charges stemmed from a January 2011 incident in which he reportedly showed a Lumpkin County Sheriff’s badge to two teenage girls in Forsyth County and told them what they had done was illegal.
Thursday, Turner pleaded guilty to the negotiated plea of two counts of disorderly conduct, describing the whole thing as “a misunderstanding.”
He told Superior Court Judge David Dickinson that the teens had run a stop sign and forced him into oncoming traffic on his way to assist a stranded motorist.
The girls then “got behind me and they were flashing their lights and honking their horn.”
Turner said he didn’t realize the driver and passenger were young when he pulled in front of their car, parked and approached the vehicle.
Having heard of someone getting shot while approaching a vehicle, Turner said he used his identification and a police badge because he “wanted to establish some type of credibility.”
The conversation with the girls, he said, lasted about 30 seconds and was limited to him letting them know what they did was illegal. It ended when he told them to “get it together” and that they could get a ticket for that type of driving.
Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney Michael Mahoney told the judge Turner’s actions were not “in the spirit of” false imprisonment. At no time did Turner ask the girls to do anything.
“He appeared to have just been frustrated,” Mahoney said. “He made a bad decision.”
Turner’s attorney, Brian Hansford, said Mahoney’s assessment of the situation “was very well put. I don’t have a lot to add.”
Hansford did say that since the incident Turner has gotten married and is the father of a weeks-old baby.
“He’s changed,” Hansford said.
In addition to the $1,000 fine, probation and community service, there will be no involvement in any law enforcement activities for Turner, who previously offered his helicopter to assist local agencies, including a drug task force and the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office.
Turner no longer owns the helicopter, Hansford said.
Dickinson noted that Turner’s behavior during the incident was “unacceptable” and directed him to write apology letters to both girls within 30 days.