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Ex-Clay County Sheriff Daniels enters not guilty plea

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The attorney for ex-Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels appeared in court Tuesday and entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of his client, who was removed from office in August while under state investigation over an extramarital sex scandal.

Daniels, 55, is charged with three misdemeanor counts of false statements to law enforcement and a felony count of evidence tampering, according to the latest charging documents.

The charges stem from an investigation into Daniels’ relationship with Cierra Smith, his long-time mistress and a former corrections officer who was a subordinate of Daniels while he was chief of the Duval County jail. Daniels accused Smith of stalking him in May 2019 and authorities say he tried unsuccessfully to have her arrested.

Court documents show investigators suspect Daniels tried to tamper with, hide or destroy data on his agency-issued cellphone that were related to the investigation. A 50-page document previously released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement states that a total of 112 calls were deleted from the device, 111 of which were deleted after FDLE’s investigation began, along with 78 text messages.

Daniels told investigators there was nothing to wipe from the phone and that he sought a replacement for it because it ran slowly, a claim challenged by prosecutors. Daniels is also accused of lying to a deputy about his relationship with Smith and about his efforts to get an injunction against her. He’s also accused of lying to FDLE when he said he did not tell subordinates to perform searches on government databases for personal reasons.

Daniels was not in court Tuesday. He has been granted an appearance waiver. The next hearing is scheduled for March 8.