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Former Sumter County sheriff pleads guilty to criminal ethics, drug charges

Chip Brownlee

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A former West Alabama sheriff who was removed from office in 2016 has pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges.

Former Sumter County Sheriff Tyrone Clark pleaded guilty Monday to eight criminal charges including ethics violations and drug charges. He was removed from office in July 2016 by the Alabama Supreme Court after he was impeached for corruption and willful neglect of duty.

District Attorney Greg Griggers announced the plea after an investigation into the operation of the county jail under Clark and his dealing with inmates. Clark had been indicted by a grand jury on the criminal charges in August 2016.

Circuit Court Judge Eddie Hardaway Jr. will sentence Clark on Jan. 9.

“We have been dealing with this case for three years,” Griggers said. “It was never my goal to send Tyrone Clark to prison. My goal was to remove him from office, hold him accountable for his crimes and to get rid of what had become a sickness on law enforcement in Sumter County.”

But on Monday, Clark pleaded guilty to eight of the 10 counts on which he was indicted.

Six are felonies. Each carries a sentence of five years in prison, which was an agreed sentence, Griggers said. The other two are misdemeanors that carry a 12-month sentence. Hardaway, however, will determine the actual sentence.

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Clark pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful employment of county inmates, three counts of ethics violations for using his office for personal gain, one first-degree count of promoting prison contraband, another second-degree count of promoting prison contraband and a count of conspiracy to commit a controlled substance crime.

Prosecutors said Clark had jail inmates do work on two of his houses, and he charged inmates a portion of their earnings from working outside the jail without having an authorized work release program, with Clark pocketing the money. He is also accused of selling phone cards to inmates.

He was accused of providing an inmate with a gun and keys to escape the jail and allowing an inmate to come and go and to access a room where he could run a drug operation and engage in other illegal activities.

Griggers said his office agreed to drop two charges, human trafficking in the first degree and perjury.

“In these kinds of deals, you don’t necessarily get everything you want, but you get what’s most important,” Griggers said. “We gave up on two counts in order to get a deal done that had him plead guilty to eight crimes.”

Griggers said he expects Clark to request probation in a pre-sentencing report before the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, and Griggers’ office has agreed not to take a position for or against probation. The district attorney said his goal to remove Clark from office and hold him accountable for his actions has already been accomplished.

He had hoped to restore confidence in law enforcement.

“I am very pleased with the direction the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office is now moving,” Griggers said. “Clark was such a sickness on law enforcement. Getting rid of that problem has allowed the people of Sumter County a chance to get the sheriff’s office they deserve.”

 

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