Clay County, FL – The popular former Clay County sheriff who was arrested just five days before the primary election in 2020 was found not guilty on all counts by a jury last week.
Then-Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels called it “dirty politics” when the state’s attorney levied charges against him less than a week before the incumbent’s primary.
Sheriff Daniels became internationally famous after he posted a dramatic video that went viral during the George Floyd riots warning violent protesters to stay out of Clay County.
In the video, Sheriff Daniels threatened to deputize every gun owner in his county if he needed extra help keeping rioters away.
The popular law enforcement officer was charged on Aug. 13, 2020 with third-degree felony evidence tampering and three first-degree misdemeanor counts of knowingly giving false information to law enforcement, WJXT reported.
The charges came just five days before the incumbent sheriff’s primary election.
Sheriff Daniels turned himself in to authorities and was released later the same evening, WJXT reported.
The charges were in connection with a controversy surrounding an extra-marital affair the sheriff had with Cierra Smith, a co-worker at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, fell apart and he accused her of stalking him.
Smith was detained during the incident but never actually arrested, WJXT reported.
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.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) finished its investigation 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 at the time.
Sheriff Daniels said the same thing in a lengthy video statement to the public released late on July 13.
“One thing that is 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,” the veteran law enforcement officer said.
Sheriff Daniels was defeated by Michelle Cook five days later with 37 percent of the vote to the incumbent’s 29 percent, WJXT reported.
The former sheriff continued to maintain his innocence and went to trial to face his accusers.
On Sept. 15, the defense rested without calling a single witness and the jury found former Sheriff Daniels not guilty on all seven counts.
He released a statement after the verdict, WJXT reported.
“I would like to thank the jury for their service and thank all of the people of Florida for their support during this challenging time for me and for my family,” the statement read. “The abuse and overreach that I have had to endure over the past three years is an example of what happens when sectors of our government go unchecked. If this abuse of power by government entities can happen to a duly elected sheriff, then it can happen to anyone.”
“I pledge to all Floridians and people from across the country who offered their support during these trying times, that I will continue to fight for them to ensure that we all receive equal justice under the law,” the statement continued. “This abuse cost me my job that I loved and it cost Clay County their sheriff. Similar to what we are seeing happen to former President Donald Trump and now with the Biden Administration working to hire 87,000 new IRS agents to harass and abuse Americans across the country, this type of government overreach has to stop.”
“I look forward to identifying ways to continue to serve the people and working to ensure that the government works for them and not to persecute them,” the former sheriff promised.