As a scrappy gay Atlanta guy settled into his recent arrest, he complained that the latest police officer to cuff him used excessive force and teased about a cavity search. Now, he's out of jail and the Atlanta cop is out of a job.
It's the latest twist in a strange case that unfolded July 4 outside a second floor apartment on Lenox Road. There was a scuffle, possibly some punches thrown, maybe a syringe and allegations that a packet of drugs was discarded and never found. The case resulted in Corey Orlando Jefferson pleading guilty on Sept. 9 to charges of burglary, possession of tools for the commission of crime and theft of services. He received a 5-year suspended sentence, according to the Fulton County District Attorney's office, an end to his latest run-in with Atlanta police that has included arrests on traffic charges and possession of meth.
But the incident also resulted in Atlanta police launching an internal affairs investigation after Jefferson complained that Officer Corey Sauberan used unnecessary force, choked him, verbally assaulted him and accused him of selling meth. We chronicled the case in September after spotting Jefferson on Grindr. His profile directed people to his Facebook page, which in turn included a post from a friend about the recent arrest. We dubbed him the scrappy Grindr gay that likes to fight with cops.
Turns out that the case included other twists that Jefferson pointed to in later Facebook posts, that were included in the internal affairs investigation, and came out during a Wednesday interview with Jefferson by Project Q Atlanta.
“It makes me look 20 times worse than I am,” Jefferson told Project Q. “The situation is just blown out of proportion.”
Sauberan, a 6-year Atlanta police veteran, detailed his version of the July 4 arrest in an incident report alleging that Jefferson and two other people were squatting inside a Lenox Road apartment. Sauberan was a courtesy officer for the complex and when he arrived to investigate, he said that Jefferson was standing outside and started acting “extremely nervous” when he asked him questions.
I then asked him if he had any drugs or weapons on him and he stated there was a syringe in his pocket that he used for insulin. I asked him if he had any insulin on his person and he stated no. I asked him if he would pull out the syringe and show it to me. He then pulled a syringe out of his right pocket and showed it to me. I became suspicious that Corey Jefferson was possibly an illegal narcotics abuser, and could possibly be in possession of illegal narcotics. I told him to place it down somewhere and not touch it while I was doing my investigation.
But Jefferson, Sauberan alleged, tossed the syringe and a small plastic bag off the balcony. Then the officer tried to arrest him and a scuffle ensued. Sauberan described it this way:
I then grabbed his arm to place him into custody and he pulled it away from me. I then grabbed him again and he pushed me and my rear end went into the railing almost causing me to fall backward off the second floor balcony. I grabbed him to keep from falling back and then pushed him back and into the wall of the apartment building. As I pushed him back toward the wall we both fell to the ground and into some plastic lawn furniture that was set up nearby.
He then began to come in my direction in a fast pace and was raising his hands. As we made contact again I swung at him with a closed fist. He then turned his head as he seen my fist coming and my fist struck the back of his head. Since he was much larger (taller and heavier) I used this opportunity to jump on his back and take him to the ground. I put my arm around his neck and my legs around his waist to try and get control of him.
Arrest leads to complaint
Jefferson complained of injuries after the arrest and paramedics treated him at an Atlanta police precinct, according to police records. He also filed a complaint against Sauberan alleging that the officer used unnecessary force, choked him, verbally assaulted him and accused him of selling meth.
I got to the apartment and called Linda so that I could get my backpack bag. I knocked on the door and I was unsure if I was at the right door. So I stood back to see if the door would open. Then Officer Sauburan pulled up and said, “what do you have in your pockets?” “Are you hear to sale meth?” I was a the top of the stairs and Officer Sauburan was still in his car. “You piece of shit meth dealer, your hear to sell meth stand right here, you're going to jail.” He then approached the door and took out his asp baton and started knocking on the door. at that point, Linda opened the door and Officer Sauberan asked (Linda and David) to step our and asked them why are you here. They responded Linda lives there. Officer Sauberan then looked at him and asked, “What happened to the syringe?” “Where did you put in?” he then got angry and pushed me up against the wall and started yelling at me, “Where did you put it?” “tell me.” He then grabbed me from behind by my neck and started to suffocated/chocking me and took me to the ground. Officer Sauberan started saying stop resisting arrest I sat there defenseless. My neck hurts as a result of him choking me. Officer Sauberan had me a five point restraint. Some yelled get this on video and Officer Sauberan then stopped. He then placed the handcuffs on me. On the way to the patrol car and I said I would submit to a cavity search and Officer Sauburn stated I bet you would like that.
On Wednesday, Jefferson said that Sauberan recognized him from a past drug arrest and assumed he was there to sell meth, which he wasn't. Jefferson said he didn't have a syringe or any drugs on him when he was arrested on July 4 and that he didn't resist arrest, as Sauberan claimed.
“The whole syringe thing and all of that, none of that went down as he described. I had nothing on me. Somehow he couldn't accept it and wanted to arrest me as a former drug piece of shit, which is exactly what he called me. He decided what I was going to jail for because of how easily it could be made to look and that was it,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson admitted to two past arrests involving meth, which were detailed in our story in late September. But he said a Fulton jail arrest record that shows eight arrests is incorrect; he's been arrested six times, he explained.
“The misinformation is out there. I can't blame [Project Q] because you weren't considering that some of this information is erroneous,” Jefferson said. “The worst thing that I can honestly say I've ever done and gone to jail for was possession of methamphetamine.”
Jefferson's complaint prompted an investigation by the internal affairs unit of Atlanta police. In that probe, Sauberan said that he later recognized Jefferson from a 2011 arrest in which he was charged with DUI and possession of meth. In an Aug. 13 interview with internal affairs investigators, Sauberan said he suspects Jefferson discarded a syringe and suspected narcotics as he was being questioned. He also disputed Jefferson's allegations that he called him a “piece of shit meth dealer” and accused him of selling meth. He then detailed what led to Jefferson's arrest.
After witnessing him throw the syringe and the other object, I attempted to place him custody by grabbing his arm; he pulled away from me. I grabbed his arm again, that is when he pushed me into the railing on the second floor balcony. My rear end almost went over the railing causing me to fall, I had to grab on to Mr. Jefferson to keep myself from falling, which is when I pushed him back towards the apartment wall building. We both ended up falling down on the ground on some lawn furniture. We got on our feet, Mr. Jefferson walked towards me in a fast place, with his hands raised. In fear that I may be struck, I swing at him and he saw me swinging, he turned his head; my fist hit the back of his head. After seeing him turn his head, I took the opportunity to jump on his back and take him down to the ground. While on the ground, I wrapped my legs around his waist and had my arm under his chin in order for to hold him. I requested for assistance over the radio; while waiting on help to arrive; he continued to try to pull my arm down. He said that he could not breathe, I told him to stop trying to get away and I would loosen my grasp on him. He then complied and I loosened my grip and was in the position until two other officers arrived on the scene. As the two other officers approached, I basically let him go and then he began to resist again by trying to get away by pulling away from me and trying to get up. Myself, and the other officers had to use arm bar techniques to get him restrained. He was finally placed into custody.
Sauberan also denied that he made a comment to Jefferson that he would like to submit to a cavity search. Jefferson reiterated on Wednesday that Sauberan did say that and called him a “faggot.”
Sauberan also offered this to internal affairs investigators:
Corey Jefferson has multiple arrests for Methamphetamine; he was also previously arrested by Zone Two Officers for squatting, charged with Burglary and Tools to commit the crime. This makes me believe that he was definitely a suspect on the complaints we received for this specific location.
Jefferson told Project Q that at the time of his July 4 arrest, he was out on bond from a March arrest. During his two months in jail, he missed a court hearing on the earlier case, prompting prosecutors to upgrade the charges from that case. That, in turn, prompted his guilty plea in early September.
Officer quits during internal investigation
Internal affairs investigators questioned Sauberan about noon on Aug. 13. He resigned the next day.
Sauberan's resignation led the agency to close its investigation into the allegations of unnecessary force and working an extra job without a department permit on Aug. 16 without issuing a finding. Sauberan had twice been suspended for a day for complaints about his use of city vehicles, according to the internal affairs investigation. He also faced two admonishments for his conduct and appearance in court. In 2008, he was exonerated on a use of force complaint. Two years later, he was cleared on a citizen complaint concerning discrimination.
Jefferson said Wednesday that during his arrest this summer, he realized that it might lead to more than another court date.
“This time when I got arrested, I was so proud to go to jail that I did not even think about crying because I knew something of a greater good would have to come out of this because the reason I was going to jail was so littered with dirt,” he said.
“It only further fuels my desire and will and drive to continue living based on my integrity and not compromising my virtues or feeling bad things that may be looked down upon by other people. I know where my head and my heart is and I don't do anything with bad intentions or ill will towards anybody,” Jefferson added.
UPDATE: Sauberan responded to our inquiries late Wednesday to say that his resignation was not related to Jefferson's arrest or the internal affairs investigation. He quit to follow his family, which had already moved out of Georgia.
“My resignation during the investigation had absolutely nothing to do with the investigation. In fact it was really just bad timing. I already put in my two weeks and just a few days before I was going to resign I received the notice that an investigation was beginning,” Sauberan said in a Facebook message.
“My run in with Corey Jefferson was unfortunate. I guess anytime you have a run in with someone as a police officer and have to place them into custody it is unfortunate. Especially when there is a physical struggle that has to take place to get them into custody and the risk of injury to parties is possible. I hope that one day he will be able to work out his situation, whatever that may be, and that he will get on the right track and turn things around for himself,” he added.