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Making sense of the charges against Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels

Sitting sheriff faces 4 criminal charges, including felony evidence tampering

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A day after Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels surrendered to law enforcement to face criminal charges stemming from a sex scandal investigation, newly released court documents are shedding light on the allegations against him.

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.

The evidence tampering count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison plus a $5,000 fine, while the false information counts each carry a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

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. In the video clip, the sheriff questioned the timing of the criminal charges, calling it “very suspicious.”

RELATED: Facing 4 charges, Sheriff Daniels turns himself in | Why bring charges during an election?

“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,” Daniels said.

Of the four charges, the most serious is the evidence tampering count. According to the charging documents, Daniels is accused of either destroying or hiding unspecified cellphone data in an effort to thwart a grand jury or criminal investigation.

DOCUMENTS: View the charging documents for Daniels

The first of three false information counts is related to a May 2019 stalking allegation the sheriff made against Cierra Smith, a former subordinate at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office with whom he had an affair that began while he was in charge of the agency’s jail.

TIMELINE: Events that led up to the arrest of Sheriff Daniels

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.

RELATED: Sheriff Daniels accuses corrections officer of stalking him | Sheriff Daniels’ ex-lover: What I did was wrong

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

Daniels is accused of misleading Sgt. Christopher Ruby when he filed that stalking report and again when he spoke with investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Most recently, the court records claim, Daniels provided false information to FDLE Inspector Keith Riddick and Special Agent Luis Negrete in statements he gave June 15 about the stalking case and allegations of evidence tampering. No further details about those charges were released.

RELATED: Nelson seeks independent prosecutor in Daniels’ case

State Attorney Brad King, who oversees criminal prosecutions in Florida’s Fifth Judicial Circuit, is handling the case. King was named special prosecutor after State Attorney Melissa Nelson asked to recuse herself, citing a conflict of interest that could arise from her assistant state attorneys being listed as state witnesses in the case and being called upon to testify at trial.


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