CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – A mound of evidence that will be used in the case against former Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels was released Tuesday.
The 33 files of evidence obtained by News4Jax include a nearly two-hour interview with the embattled former sheriff where he answers questions from investigators about the nature of his longtime affair with Cierra Smith, a former Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office corrections officer.
The interview led to Daniels facing multiple charges stemming from the sex scandal investigation, including one count of evidence tampering, a third-degree felony offense, and three counts of knowingly giving false information to law enforcement, a first-degree misdemeanor. After Daniels turned himself in last year on the charges, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order to suspend him. Daniels ran for re-election amid the investigation and was defeated. He now awaits trial.
In the taped interview, Daniels admitted that during the years of the affair, he sent Smith more than $60,000 using a cash app. Daniels said he was able to hide it from his wife because he was in charge of the family finances.
He was then asked if he ever had sex with Smith at the Clay County Sheriff’s Office or in a Clay County Sheriff’s Office vehicle, and he said no. When he was asked if he ever had sex with her while on duty, Daniels said that he’s on duty 24/7, “so technically, yes.”
The evidence files also include photos (above) from the day that Smith was briefly arrested after Daniels told deputies she was stalking him. According to a state attorney’s office memo, Daniels told the sergeant on the scene to arrest Smith for stalking, but a lieutenant -- backed by the undersheriff and a chief -- all said there wasn’t probable cause for an arrest.
It was a pivotal moment in the case against Daniels and ultimately led to his political downfall.
Daniels later told investigators what was going through his mind the morning that he says Smith was following him in Clay County.
“How does this end? I started thinking ‘Clay County Sheriff has to kill a female, a young female, in her vehicle.’ I said nah, that’s not a good look for myself or the county,” Daniels said. “‘Clay County Sheriff is killed by a young female,’ nah, that’s not a good look either.”
The incident happened around the time Daniels told his wife the affair with Smith was over.
Daniels also directly addressed the charges against him. The former sheriff was asked if he and Smith exchanged nude photographs via Snapchat.
“I’m sure there was. I’m sure,” he responded.
“Any of this done using sheriff’s office equipment?” an investigator asked.
“No,” Daniels said.
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 and lying to FDLE when he said he did not tell subordinates to perform searches on government databases for personal reasons.
The files of evidence, which News4Jax is continuing to go through, also includes taped statements from senior Clay County Sheriff’s Office staff.
“He goes, uh if you think I fight for clay county wait until you see how I fight for Darryl daniels,” CCSO Director Joe Bucci told investigators. “And he goes f*** this. My job, I’m out. Undersheriff you got it. And he walked out. It was that quick, that direct, and he never sat down.”
Daniels is also pressed by investigators as to why he didn’t end his affair with Smith and let things spiral out of control to where there was a domestic situation in a parking lot in Oakleaf between Daniels, his mistress and his wife.
“The motivator for me was to minimize any exposure of this to my wife,” Daniels said.