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Governor suspends Florida sheriff amid sex scandal investigation

Sheriff accused of trying to get mistress arrested

Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels turns himself in, faces 4 charges
Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels turns himself in, faces 4 charges

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – A day after Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels surrendered to law enforcement to face criminal charges stemming from a sex scandal investigation, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order to suspend the embattled sheriff, News 6 partner WJXT reported.

The order signed by DeSantis states in part that “it is in the best interests of the residents of the Clay County, and the citizens of the State of Florida, that Darryl Daniels be immediately suspended from the public office, which he now holds, upon the grounds set forth in this executive order.”

Effective immediately, the order states, Daniels is suspended from public office and prohibited from performing any official duty or function of public office. He is prohibited from receiving any pay or allowance and from any privileges of public office during the suspension.

The charging documents released by the Clay County Clerk of Court indicate Daniels is charged with a count of evidence tampering, a third-degree felony offense, and three counts of knowingly giving false information to law enforcement, a first-degree misdemeanor.

RELATED: Making sense of the charges against Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed an internal investigation last year into a corrections officer, Cierra Smith, who had been Daniels’ mistress while he was her supervisor. Officials said Daniels had tried to get Smith arrested in May 2019 on stalking allegations, and investigators told prosecutors there wasn’t enough evidence. Smith resigned while under investigation for misconduct claims.

Daniels filed the May 6, 2019, report, accusing Smith of stalking, saying a suspicious Jeep was following him in the Oakleaf Plantation area. A Jeep driven by Smith was stopped in response to the complaint and a loaded gun was found inside the vehicle.

Even though Daniels ordered a sergeant on scene to arrest Smith, the sergeant refused on the grounds that he did not believe there was probable cause to make an arrest. While deputies placed Smith in handcuffs, no criminal charges were filed against her.

On Friday, Smith’s attorney, Latoya Shelton Williams, told News4Jax her client will be moving forward with plans for a civil wrongful arrest lawsuit.

“It was a wrongful arrest. It was an abuse of power for [Daniels'] own personal gains,” Williams said.

Williams also said her client was licensed to carry a concealed firearm. She said Smith and Daniels had arranged to meet that day, but instead that turned out to be what she described as a “huge setup.”

News4Jax on Friday spoke with Rep. John Rutherford, R-Florida, a former Jacksonville sheriff who worked with Daniels during his time at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

“I’m not gonna make any judgments on his behavior until, you know, he’s had his opportunity in court so to speak,” Rutherford said.

Through his attorney and a video statement posted on social media Thursday, the sheriff has maintained his innocence. Attorney Matthew Kachergus said his client has no intention of stepping down and that he still plans to seek reelection.

RELATED: Why bring charges during an election?

In the video, Daniels reads part of a letter, suggesting state prosecutors told him to resign, and drop out of the sheriff’s race, or face prosecution. But special state prosecutor Brad King said in a responding letter that claims of an ultimatum are “not true.”

Instead, King writes, his office offered Daniels a deal to keep his pension if he withdrew from the sheriff’s race and his job, among other things.

In the video clip, the sheriff questioned the timing of the criminal charges, calling it “very suspicious” and using the term “dirty politics.”

“Within days of a primary election, the powers that be, especially the State Attorney’s Office, has decided that today is the day that they will execute their plan and interfere with what’s going on with the sheriff,” Daniels said.

King noted in his letter: “I do not know Sheriff Daniels, his politics, his opponents, nor for that matter any citizen in Clay County. When I am asked to prosecute a case, I do it based on the facts and the law and nothing else.”

News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullany explains what’s next for Daniels.

“Winning on Tuesday does not reinstate him as sheriff,” Mullaney said. “Typically what will happen on a suspension is that you are entitled to a hearing in the Senate, but before you have that hearing in the Senate, the criminal charges have to be addressed, so those criminal charges will be front and center after Tuesday.”


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