CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – As a more than yearlong investigation continues, Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels says he did nothing wrong.
Daniels is accused of illegally ordering the arrest of his former mistress. He’s accused the woman, Cierra Smith, of stalking.
Now, News4Jax has learned the investigation is changing hands, and Daniels said it feels “political” extending into an election year. The sheriff spoke with News4Jax a day before a special prosecutor was assigned from the 5th Judicial Circuit.
State Attorney Brad King will take the case, but it’s unclear when it might be concluded, and it seems unlikely that will happen before the Aug. 18 primary.
“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.”
State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s office had the report from Florida Department of Law Enforcement, but sent the governor a letter asking for the case to be reassigned.
Part of the letter reads: “While it has always been my intent for this office to fulfill our legal obligation to pursue a criminal prosecution if warranted, it is now clear that a conflict of interest would exist if this Office were to institute a prosecution wherein assistant state attorneys currently working in this office, were also called as state witnesses at trial.”
The lengthy process doesn’t sit well with Daniels.
“It feels political to me. It feels political to a lot of people, and it’s actually upsetting to the citizens of Clay County, because they’re going, they say, ‘Wait a minute, I thought this was put to bed,' no pun intended, and they say, ‘Why are they picking on my sheriff?‘”
An affair between Daniels and a former subordinate in Jacksonville became public with a report accusing Smith of having a gun in her car and following Daniels in a “manner that caused his great concern.”
Deputies apparently resisted an order from Daniels to arrest Smith and cited lack of probable cause.
News4Jax asked Daniels about the allegations and whether he did anything wrong.
“No. Other than the obvious,” Daniels said. “You know when it comes to the statement that I somehow abuse my position, my authority, you know, commensurate with this position. Absolutely not. And, you know, the truth will come out and, you know, folks who have formulated an opinion based on that narrative. I wonder if they’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry, sheriff.‘”
Daniels continued, “This is the first time anybody asked me, being honest with you. Nobody’s ever asked, ‘Did you do what they’re saying that you did?' The answer’s no, and I can say that with a clear conscience.”
Daniels is running for re-election, and he is on the ballot in the primary election. Daniels has drawn five opponents.