Three more Hamilton County commissioners — and the county district attorney — on Sunday said Sheriff Billy Long should resign amid extortion, money laundering and gun charges.
Commissioners Larry Henry, Richard Casavant and Fred Skillern joined Commissioner Curtis Adams in calling for the sheriff’s resignation. Hamilton County District Attorney Bill Cox also said Sheriff Long should step down.
“I think that would negate the necessity for any ... ouster proceedings,” Mr. Cox said.
Sheriff Long is slated to appear at a bond hearing at 2 p.m. today in federal court. Attorney Jerry Summers said Sunday a representative of the Long family asked him to appear at the hearing on the sheriff’s behalf.
Mr. Henry said Sheriff Long should resign immediately and that he would support Chief Deputy Allen Branum, who has run department operations since Sheriff Long’s arrest on Saturday, remaining in charge until an August election to select a new sheriff.
County Attorney Rheubin Taylor has said that if the sheriff does not step down, ouster proceedings could be started by the County Commission or by the county district attorney.
Dr. Casavant, one six Republicans on the nine-member commission, said Sunday that the sheriff should resign. Commissioner Adams, also a Republican, on Saturday called for Sheriff Long to step down immediately.
Commissioner Fred Skillern, a Republican, also on Sunday called for Sheriff Long’s resignation. Mr. Skillern said he thinks the County Commission at this Wednesday’s meeting will get a timetable for the process moving forward.
Democratic Commissioner Warren Mackey said the sheriff is “innocent until proven guilty.”
“Until he’s been found to be guilty, I would not say that he needs to go,” Dr. Mackey said.
On Saturday, Sheriff Long was charged with taking $17,400 in payments between April 2007 and December 2007 allegedly for protecting the video poker operations and other illegal activity of ethnic Indian convenience store owners, according to a federal complaint. He was placed in custody at an undisclosed location.
Sheriff Long, 55, also has been charged with accepting cash payoffs in conjunction with what he believed to be money laundering connected with drug trafficking, according to federal officials.
The sheriff allegedly demanded that Indian store owners pay $38,000 that Sheriff Long said he was owed toward $50,000 in promised campaign contributions for the 2006 sheriff’s race, according to a federal complaint. Sheriff Long, a Democrat, was elected in August 2006 and took office on Sept. 1, 2006.
The sheriff also is accused of taking $6,550 in cash as a payoff for what he believed was the laundering of $625,000 in drug money in what turned out to be an FBI sting, the complaint states.
Sheriff Long could get up to 20 years in prison and be fined up to $250,000 for the charges of extortion and money laundering, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Humble said.
The sheriff also has been charged with giving a convicted felon a gun and a sheriff’s department badge, records show. Mr. Humble has said the alleged gun violation is punishable with up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
Mr. Henry, a Republican, said Sunday, a day after meeting with sheriff’s department officials, that the department has “a lot of confidence in Chief Branum.”
Chief Deputy Branum said he would consider running in an August election.
“That’s thinking a little bit far ahead, but you’ve got to look at the future,” Mr. Branum said.
Among those mentioned for the sheriff’s post are former Sheriff John Cupp, who lost to Sheriff Long in the 2006 county general election; Jim Hammond, a former chief deputy in the department; and Andy Derryberry, another former chief deputy who challenged then-Sheriff Cupp unsuccessfully in the May 2006 county primary election.
Mr. Derryberry said Sunday that while he has received “many encouraging phone calls,” it is “far too early” for people to start “jockeying” for the sheriff’s job.
Hamilton County GOP Chairwoman Connie Weathers on Sunday called for Sheriff Long to step down.
“Sheriff Long should resign immediately so we as a community can start to repair the damage he has done to law enforcement’s image,” she said.
John Bailes, Democratic Party county chairman, said “it’s too early for the party to make a statement about resignation” until today’s hearing.
In a statement, Mr. Bailes said “we are saddened by this news.”
“We support the sheriff’s department and local law enforcement in doing an extraordinary job,” he said. “As more information emerges, however, we must wait to see what decision should be made by the Hamilton County Democratic Party.”