Alabama Supreme Court today impeached Sumter County Sheriff Tyrone Clark Sr., removing him from office for willful neglect of duty and corruption in office.
The eight justices unanimously found Clark guilty on the two charges after a trial that started Monday.
Gov. Robert Bentley will appoint his replacement.
Clark allowed an inmate with an extensive record of offenses to leave the jail without supervision, bring contraband into the jail and have sex with female visitors who were not searched or monitored, according to a report by Attorney General Luther Strange’s office, which prosecuted Clark.
Chad Morgan, an attorney for Clark, said they were disappointed in the verdict and were exploring their options.
“Our client believes it was a manifestation of dirty politics,” Morgan said.
Under the charge of willful neglect of duty, the justices found that Clark:
- Made inmate Rodney Coats a trusty and allowed him to move freely about the jail and administrative building and sometimes leave the jail without law enforcement oversight even though he was charged with trafficking cocaine and methamphetamine and other charges and had a total bond of $675,000.
- Allowed Coats to bring controlled substances, cell phones and cigarettes into the jail and protected Coats from searches.
- Allowed Coats to have access to firearms.
- Allowed inmate Ronald James, who was serving a 10-year split sentence for burglary, to leave the jail for extended periods of time, endangering the safety of his victim and other residents.
- Failed to arrest or apprehend inmate James Markell Bell after Bell escaped from jail.
- Gave Coats access to an unsecured room in the administration building where he had sex with female visitors who were not searched, and the entrance to the room was not monitored.
- Provided an environment in the administration building that allowed Coats to engage in human trafficking.
Under the charge of corruption in office, justices found that Clark:
- Used his office to benefit himself by having inmates Coats and Glenn Brown perform work at his home, among other things.
- Operated an undocumented work release program through which he released inmates to work and received a portion of their wages.
- Attempted to use his office to coerce a female employee to have sex with him.
Clark has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged criminally.
Sumter County District Attorney Greg Griggers, who brought the case to the attorney general’s office, was asked about possible criminal charges.
“That’s going to be something that’s going to be ongoing,” Griggers said. “In fairness to Tyrone Clark I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment at this time.”
Strange said Griggers brought the case to the attention of his office. Strange said a number of law enforcement agencies investigated, and Griggers presented the findings to a grand jury.
Griggers thanked the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency for its assistance.
Strange praised his office’s special prosecutions division, which prosecuted the case.
“The vast majority of public officials are honest, hard-working people,” Strange said. “But for those very rare occasions where we have public corruption, we’re going to go after it.”
Strange said it’s the first time in 44 years the attorney general’s office has prosecuted a public official for impeachment by the Supreme Court.
“It’s extraordinarily rare, but it’s extraordinarily important,” Strange said. “A violation of the public trust by a law enforcement official is about the highest level of corruption that I can imagine.”
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