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Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels turns himself in, faces four charges

Lawyer says Daniels is not resigning and plans to seek reelection
Clay County, Florida, Sheriff Darryl Daniels
Clay County, Florida, Sheriff Darryl Daniels(Source: Clay County Sheriff's Office/WCJB/Gray News)
Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 5:44 PM EDT
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CLAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJXT) - After Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels was given an ultimatum by a special prosecutor to either resign or be arrested, the embattled sheriff turned himself in on Thursday.

Daniels, 55, now faces four misdemeanor charges including third-degree tampering with evidence and three counts of making false statements to a law enforcement officer stemming from a sex scandal investigation, his attorney told News4Jax.

Daniels’ attorney Matt Kachergus said Daniels does not plan on resigning and still plans on seeking reelection.

Daniels has been under scrutiny from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for more than a year after he was accused of ordering one of his deputies to illegally arrest his former mistress for stalking in 2019. She began a relationship with Daniels when she worked for him when they were both at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the affair continued after he was elected sheriff.

Daniels has told News4Jax he did nothing wrong.

“It is baffling to me how something as simple as a simple investigation with a few a few people to be interviewed has taken over a year,” Daniels said. “To me, it kind of speaks to, I hate to say, that speaks of the competency of the investigating agency.”

Last month, Daniels drew criticism and praise after he posted a warning to outside groups who may be thinking of bringing violent protests to Clay County.

Daniels is currently up for reelection in Clay County. He has five opponents in the election which is set for Aug. 18.

One of his challengers, Michelle Cook, issued a statement after the news broke Thursday.

“Today’s news is the latest chapter in the sad, embarrassing tenure of Sheriff Darryl Daniels,” Cook said. “Thankfully, the people of Clay County can end the cronyism, corruption, and abuse of power at the Sheriff’s Office by voting in Tuesday’s primary election.”

Mike Taylor, who is also running for sheriff, also weighed in.

“It’s a long time coming,” Taylor said. “My biggest concern is that it took so long for FDLE to complete their investigation and then for the state attorney’s office to complete their review. About half of the voting in Clay County has already occurred and unfortunately, that means every vote for Sheriff Daniels will not count. That’s my biggest concern. I’ve been the only candidate for the last ten months who have said he’s going to be charged. He’s going to be arrested. You cannot break the law as the sheriff and operate with impunity.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently appointed a Central Florida state attorney as a special prosecutor, Brad King, to take over the investigation of Daniels.

After State Attorney Melissa Nelson received a summary report of the FDLE investigation in July, she recused herself from the case because prosecutors in her office could be called as witnesses.

In June 2019, an anonymous letter calling for Daniels’ ouster was sent to Gov. DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, FDLE and various news organizations. The letter appears to have been written by one of Daniels’ employees, though the identity of the sender is unclear.

Among other things, the letter referenced statements Daniels made while briefing deputies on June 14 and alleges that Daniels threatened whoever was leaking information about him on social media.

It was received about one month after news of an extramarital affair between Daniels and a former subordinate when he was a supervisor at the Duval County jail, where both worked at the time, became public knowledge.

That subordinate, Cierra Smith, told News4Jax her relationship began in 2013 when she was a 21-year-old corrections officer working for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Daniels, then 48, oversaw the jail.

In May 2019, Daniels filed a report accusing Smith of having a gun in her car and following him in a “manner that caused him great concern.” His deputies resisted an order from Daniels to arrest Smith, citing a lack of probable cause, according to court documents.

Latoya Shelton Williams, an attorney representing Smith, spoke with News4Jax on Thursday evening.

“I do not have all the information on FDLE’s findings right now but we are definitely watching closely. And if anything about her wrongful arrest was founded upon, then we will move forward civilly. We were awaiting findings for the FDLE,” Williams said. “It’s a little surprising that it took them so long but they were committed to doing a thorough investigation and I think that is important.”

Ms. Smith said she does not want to comment right now.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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