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Clay Co. Sheriff Criminally Charged 5 Days Before Primary, Governor Replaces Him

Clay County, FL – Five days ahead of the primary election for sheriff of Clay County, the state’s attorney levied charges against the popular incumbent in a move Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels called “dirty politics.”

Charging documents showed that Sheriff Daniels is facing charges of third-degree felony evidence tampering and three first-degree misdemeanor counts of knowingly giving false information to law enforcement, WJXT reported.

The sheriff turned himself in to authorities and was released later in the evening.

The popular law enforcement official became internationally famous after his June 30 video warning violent protesters to stay out of Clay County went viral.

In the video, Sheriff Daniels threatened to deputize every gun owner in his county if he needed extra help keeping rioters away.

Despite his popularity, the sheriff has been mired in controversy after an extra-marital affair with Cierra Smith, a co-worker at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, fell apart and he accused her of stalking him, WJXT reported.

Smith was detained during the incident but never actually arrested.

She claimed the entire incident had been a set up and that she was supposed to be meeting up with Sheriff Daniels when he accused her of stalking, WJXT reported.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) finished its investigation into the matter more than a month ago and turned it over to the Florida State’s Attorney Melissa Nelson for a determination about whether to move forward with charges.

Nelson recused herself because one of her assistant state’s attorneys was on the witness list, and the case was passed to the Florida 5th Judicial Circuit State’s Attorney Brad King, WJXT reported.

King announced charges against Sheriff Daniels just five days ahead of the Aug. 18 primary.

“The timing of it has people asking if it’s politically motivated,” a lifelong Clay County resident told The Police Tribune.

Sheriff Daniels said the same thing in a lengthy video statement to the public released late on July 13.

The sheriff began his video by reading a list of demands he said the state’s attorney had made in connection with his charges and election that made it very clear the two were connected.

He said prosecutors wanted him to “file an immediate and irrevocable resignation,” file with the supervisors of elections withdrawing from the election, forfeit his law enforcement certification to FDLE, and dispose of all campaign contributions.

Sheriff Daniels said he was told he shall not move or seek to expunge records, that he must waive a speedy trial, and that he had to agree he could never run for sheriff in any county in the 4th Judicial Circuit.

After sharing the list of demands, the sheriff told voters that he would not tolerate being bullied.

He said he admitted that he had made mistakes in relation to his relationships but that he had done nothing wrong in the context of his office.

“I’ve stood in the gap for people who get mistreated. I’ve stood in the gap for the safety and welfare of this county, and the folks who work in this fine agency, but I’ll stand up for myself as well,” Sheriff Daniels said in the video. “I’ve always stood up for right in this county. And that’s what I should be judged on.”

He referenced the “dirty politics in Clay County” and said sometimes people go to great lengths to achieve a goal like being elected to office.

And Sheriff Daniels, who has lived in Clay County for 30 years, strongly defended his record as sheriff in the community.

“We’re a safer community, a closer community,” the sheriff said in the video. “The partnerships and friendships that we’ve fostered and embraced over these years is unparalleled not only in this state but in this country.”

“As the sheriff, there’s one thing that I focus on and that’s keeping you and your family safe,” he said. “As a citizen of Clay County, how long do we have to tolerate dirty politics here in this county? How long? When does it stop? When does it stop? It stops when the citizens of this county stand up for what’s right and say you know what no more of that. No more dirty politics. Not anymore. And certainly, not with our sheriff!”

The sheriff accused prosecutors of having an “ulterior motive” to impact a political race.

Clay County voters who spoke with The Police Tribune said that the charges against Sheriff Daniels could be race-related and they weren’t going to keep them from voting for him.

Some said they had already checked his name in early voting.

Sheriff Daniels is the first black sheriff ever elected in Clay County.

“I have no regrets about voting for him. I’m standing behind him,” one voter told The Police Tribune.

“What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong,” he explained. “He’s the first black elected official county-wide. There are other officials who’ve done worse stuff that what’s he’s accused of and nothing was done. For them to release this a few days ahead of the election has people up in arms.”

The Clay County voter said Sheriff Daniels had delivered on the campaign promises he made when he ran.

“Community engagement with the sheriff’s department has been fantastic. It’s the most engaged with the community that I’ve ever seen, under Sheriff Daniels watch,” he said.

“Yesterday’s arrest was just to humiliate the sheriff five days before the election,” the voter told The Police Tribune.

King has refused to confirm whether the state’s attorney’s office had contact with the sheriff and made the demands Sheriff Daniels claimed they had, WOKV reported.

Governor Ron DeSantis suspended the sheriff, and has appointed a replacement from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Matt Walsh will operate as interim sheriff for five months until a new sheriff is elected and takes over in January.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone

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