Devout Ten Commandments sheriff faces jail in Tennessee
A few years back, the County Sheriff in Rutherford, Tennessee – Robert Arnold, above – posted a framed copy of the Ten Commandments inside the lobby of the sheriff’s department, which also serves as a jail.
He also adorned the premises with the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.
At least one resident – Cindy Wallace– was ecstatic:
I love it. I am so proud that people are finally standing up for our religion. Thank God we have a sheriff with enough guts to put that in the lobby.
In an interview with The Tennessean, Arnold, a Republican, argued that such documents should be allowed to be displayed on public property because they are:
Documents this country was founded on. My job is to enforce the laws of the land, and those are three documents of laws of the land.
Those words should be thrown back in Arnold’s face when, later this year, he will be sentenced for wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion.
The now sacked sheriff recently pleaded guilty to three of 14 counts of illegally profiting from inmates through a company selling electronic cigarettes.
Each count carries up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, supervised release of not more than three years and a $52,500 restitution payment to the county from electronic cigarettes revenues from a business called JailCigs.
The sentencing date was set for May 8, but US District Court Judge Kevin Sharp said he’d make it earlier if possible in response to a request of one of Arnold’s attorneys. Arnold is currently in custody.
Other defendants in the trial are Joe Russell, a former sheriff’s administration chief, who was fired in November, and Arnold’s uncle John Vanderveer.
Who shopped the sheriff?
The criminal JailCigs investigation began around February 2015 when Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess and County Finance Director Lisa Nolen met with District Attorney Jennings Jones about the sheriff’s involvement with JailCigs.
Jones asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Comptroller to investigate. The FBI joined the investigation and led a search-warrant raid on the homes and offices of Arnold, Russell and Vanderveer in May 2015, about a year before the three were indicted on 14-counts in May of last year.
Russell and Vanderveer are the owners of JailCigs, according to Georgia Secretary of State records.
Arnold disclosed that he and his wife had earned investment income from JailCigs on a conflict-of-interest form filed January 2015 with the Tennessee Ethics Commission, but this came after he had lied to state auditors in 2014 about making money from the business, lead prosecuting attorney Cecil VanDevender told the judge while summarising the case against Arnold.
Arnold and his wife received a combined $66,790 from JailCigs from December 2013 through April 2015, and Russell received $52,234.41 from the company over that same period, according to a Tennessee Comptroller report released last November 16.
The report also accused Arnold and Russell of violating county purchasing policies by circumventing the process and failing to solicit bids.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn