An attorney representing former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long said he will request a detention hearing in an attempt to have his client released from the Bradley County Jail where he has been housed since shortly after his arrest Feb. 2.
Attorney Jerry Summers said allowing Mr. Long to be released would help him prepare for the May 13 trial date as well as review several hours of secretly recorded video and audiotapes.
“The officials in Bradley County have been very cooperative, but it is hard,” Mr. Summers said. “There is a considerable amount of material on audio and video that the government has provided us. They may provide some more, and we may provide some to them.”
Mr. Long, 55, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bill Carter on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to all charges listed in a 28-count federal indictment that includes extortion, money laundering, drug trafficking and providing a weapon to a convicted felon.
Mr. Summers said he will subpoena a “cooperating witness,” who has been identified as the Rev. Eugene Overstreet, for the detention hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Humble declined to say if he would oppose Mr. Long’s release or if he would attempt to quash the subpoena.
Mr. Long is accused of accepting 12 payments totaling $17,400 from undercover agents posing as representatives of convenience store owners from whom the former sheriff is charged with extorting money in lieu of an unfulfilled campaign contribution.
The undercover agents told Mr. Long the payments were from ethnic Indians to protect their video poker business, according to a U.S. Justice Department news release.
Federal agents then introduced Mr. Long to what he believed was a drug trafficking and money laundering operation, in which the then-sheriff accepted six cash payments totaling $26,550 in exchange for laundering $525,000 in drug proceeds and distributing 10 kilograms of cocaine with the help of a cooperating witness, the release states.
Mr. Long faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in a federal prison and a maximum sentence of life if he is convicted of possessing with the intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.
He also faces up to a $4 million fine for the cocaine charge.
Mr. Long’s charge of possession of a gun in furtherance of drug trafficking carries a mandatory minimum five years in prison that must be served consecutively to the drug trafficking charge if he is convicted of both.
The extortion and money laundering charges each carry up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
If Mr. Long is convicted of providing a gun to a convicted felon, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, Justice Department officials said.
If Mr. Long intends to enter into a plea agreement with prosecutors, he must agree to do so by May 2, Judge Carter said.
Mr. Summers said he believes it is important for Hamilton County residents to understand that Mr. Long’s arrest should not tarnish the reputation and integrity of other officers.
“According to our investigation, the facts and circumstances surrounding this thing indicates that no one in the Hamilton County sheriff’s office is involved in these allegations,” he said.
No date has been set for the detention hearing. Judge Carter suggested that Mr. Summers file a written request and one would be scheduled.