New charges filed against former Sheriff Darryl Daniels; trial delayed again

The former Clay County Sheriff caught in the middle of a sex scandal with one of his subordinates is facing new criminal charges.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The former Clay County Sheriff caught in the middle of a sex scandal with one of his subordinates is facing new criminal charges.

State attorneys have now charged Darryl Daniels with three more counts of giving false information to a law enforcement officer and said in court another evidence tampering charge will be filed.

Prosecutors said Wednesday that the tampering with evidence charge was amended to include a Google account they claim was deleted.

Daniels’ attorneys asked a judge Wednesday for more time to prepare for trial because of the new charges filed by the state.

“I have not conducted discovery related to this allegation because it was not an issue. Quite frankly, your honor, I am unprepared to address this with a trial breathing down our neck in less than three weeks. We need a continuous to investigate and defend against this new allegation,” defense attorney Matthew Kachergus said at a hearing Wednesday.

The judge granted the continuance, pushing Daniels’ trial from mid-February to mid-May.

The trial, which was initially set to begin Dec. 13, was pushed back until February after the state filed a motion asking for it to be moved because a lead detective in the case, who is also serving as a witness, was dealing with a medical issue that would not allow him to be available in December.

Daniels will now have his final pretrial hearing on May 3.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson recused her office because of a conflict of interest, so the Fifth Circuit Attorney’s Office in St. Johns County is handling the case. All Clay County judges also recused themselves.

Daniels was arrested in August 2020 after an investigation was launched into an affair between Daniels and a woman named Cierra Smith, who was a corrections officer at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office when Daniels was the JSO director of the jail.

According to the investigation, Daniels and Smith were in a relationship while they worked at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, where Daniels was Smith’s boss. The affair continued after Daniels was elected sheriff of Clay County.

Smith told News4JAX, Daniels abused his power while at JSO, and when he was elected as Clay County Sheriff in 2016 with Daniels ordering his deputies to take Smith into custody, during a confrontation between Smith and his wife.

“We’re adults. We both have to own up to it, so pushing it on one person or toward someone else isn’t how we’ll get this resolved at this point,” Smith said in a previous interview.

When JSO’s internal investigation was about to be released, Daniels and Smith admitted to their affair. Daniels is accused of ordering one of his deputies to illegally arrest Smith for stalking him in 2019 after he told his wife the affair was over. Investigators said Daniels lied to them about the actions he took when the affair became public and had his phone scrubbed of incriminating communications.

News4JAX got a copy of a deposition Smith recorded last year. Notably, the witness’ name was redacted. News4JAX was there as Smith walked into the office.

Sources told News4JAX Daniels rejected a plea offer.

Calls to Daniels’ attorney have not been returned.

Lawyer Randy Reep, who’s not associated with the case, said it’s evident, the investigation is NOT over.

″Through the discovery process, while there’s defense work being done, stones are being uncovered. And we’re learning about, as an example, a Google account,” reep said. “If the state had that early on, they probably would have brought those charges early on. I do not think, and I certainly would not suggest that it was for the purpose of undermining the defense in this case.”


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Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.