A former sheriff was charged Friday with the ambush assassination of his political opponent.

Sidney Dorsey, erstwhile sheriff of DeKalb County, is one of three men accused of killing Derwin Brown days before Brown was to assume office. Brown, 46, had defeated Dorsey in a bitter runoff in August after promising to clean up a department that for years had been dogged by corruption.

Dorsey repeatedly denied any involvement after the murder. He appeared on television and said the perpetrators "should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And I mean capital punishment."

Also charged were former sheriff's Deputy Melvin Walker of Conyers and Daniel Isaiah Ramsey, whom Dorsey tried to recruit as a sheriff's deputy.

Dorsey surrendered at police headquarters, while the others were arrested peacefully at their homes, according to DeKalb Police Chief E.J. Moody.

Authorities would not say whether they believed any of the men opened fire on Brown, who was shot 11 times outside his home on Dec. 15.

"This has been a long 11 months," Moody said.

Dorsey and Walker were being held in jail made a court appearance Friday afternoon. The judge granted prosecutors a delay until Dec. 18 for a probable cause hearing. The men did not make statements, but Dorsey attorney Brian Steel said his client "is clearly innocent of all charges."

Brown's widow, Phyllis, was at hearing.

"It's hard only because I still have just one question to ask," she said. "All I want to know is why."

Dorsey had been under investigation for allegedly having on-duty deputies work for his private security company. He was also suspected of letting jail inmates work in a home repair program run by his wife.

Brown told 38 department employees they would be fired when he took office Jan. 1.

Last year, Moody said he had no doubt Brown was assassinated because the reforms he was planning.

Harry Ross, a campaign speechwriter for Brown, referred to the shooting a "professional assassination" at a news conference Friday. Ross said he had immediately believed that the crime was carried out by law enforcement officers.

Ross also stated that he was not surprised Dorsey was arrested. During the campaign, he had warned Brown that his efforts to clean up corruption in the sheriff's department could be dangerous.

Walker and Ramsey both were charged in March with lying to officials who were investigating the slaying. Ramsey applied for a position in the DeKalb sheriff's office but was turned down for allegedly falsifying his employment history.

Prosecutors said the investigation into Brown's killing had stalled as recently as August.

But a break apparently came this week, when a former sheriff's deputy won a plea deal from prosecutors for his role in a deadly shootout in DeKalb County in March.

Patrick Cuffy, who had been charged with murder in the shootout, pleaded guilty to assault Wednesday.

Authorities have said that the shootout outside Cuffy's home was related to a drug deal Cuffy was involved in and not directly tied to Brown's slaying.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.