When Thomas Rivers was pulled over for a traffic stop last November, he told the officers he was a sheriff's deputy.
Problem is, he wasn't.
Rivers, 23, of Columbus pleaded guilty Monday to impersonating a police officer and carrying a concealed weapon — charges that stemmed from his Nov. 15 traffic stop at Wade Street and Fort Benning Road. He pleaded no contest to no proof of insurance before Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Robert Johnston III.
Johnston sentenced him to three years' probation, 80 hours of community service and a $700 fine.
Assistant District Attorney David Helmick said officers stopped Rivers for having a paper license tag on his car.
"When he was pulled over, he said, 'Why did you stop me? You know I'm a sheriff's deputy.' "
Rivers showed police his driver's license showing him with a goatee. Officers thought that odd, because many in law enforcement aren't allowed have facial hair.
"He said he was allowed to, because he was a narcotics officer for them," Helmick said.
Police contacted the Lee County Sheriff's Office — the agency Rivers claimed he was an employee of, Helmick said — which told police they didn't have an officer by that name. They also didn't have anyone employed by the name of the sergeant Rivers said was his supervisor.
Rivers told the officers he had a gun in the back seat of his car. He also had handcuffs and a "crime prevention" badge, the prosecutor said.
Alonza Whitaker, Rivers' defense attorney, said his client once had been employed by a law enforcement agency, though he wasn't at the time of the traffic stop, Helmick said. Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said no one by the name of Thomas Rivers has been employed with his office during his 30-odd years with the office.
"Those cases are important because the integrity of the police or any law enforcement office can be compromised," Helmick said. "I'm glad to see him be held responsible."
Whitaker couldn't be reached for comment.