CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – After an investigation that went on for over a year, charges were filed against Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels on Thursday and he surrendered to authorities. Court records obtained by News4Jax show Daniels, 55, faces four charges including evidence tampering, a third-degree felony, and three misdemeanor counts of false reports to law enforcement authorities.
Daniels’ attorney Matt Kachergus said his client does not plan on resigning his position and still plans to seek 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.
On Thursday night, he recorded a public statement:
“I was the subject of an investigation. And that took nearly a year and a half, nearly a year and a half. And over the course of time, I’ve continued to fight for the Sheriff’s Office and the folks who live in this community,” Daniels said in the statement. “But one thing that’s very suspicious to me is the fact that within days of a primary election, the powers that be, specifically 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. With me. Today is the day that they chose to essentially charge me with things that are such that -- it’s baffling to me because it takes a stretching of the imagination to, to understand personally knowing that I’m innocent.”
Daniels said that as sheriff, he will continue to fight against “dirty politics.”
Speaking to the citizens of Clay County, Daniels says: “The question that I want you to ask yourself, and I don’t have the answer to it, is this: Why today? Why couldn’t it wait? Unless there was some ulterior motive behind the decisions to impact a political race.”
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.
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.”
Smith said she does not want to comment right now.