Coffee County Sheriff Rob Smith was indicted on March 20, 2006 on eight counts of abuse of office. Three counts charged Smith with using prisoner labor to construct campaign election signs. The charges also included two counts of violation of oath of office, two counts of malpractice and malfeasance, and one count of theft by conversion for using a state vehicle for personal gain.
The district attorney's office is also investigating allegations that Smith issued release passes to prisoners illegally; one prisoner who allegedly received a pass was a convicted felon sentenced to state prison.
It is unclear whether Smith exercised his right, under Georgia law, to appear before the grand jury and make a statement. Smith's attorney, Jerome Adams, declined to comment on the charges.
Scores of the sheriffs supporters gathered at the Coffee County Jail. Nearly 100 people attended the rally but received no response from county leaders, who were under a gag order issued by three Waycross Superior Court Judges.
Before Governor Perdue could decide whether or not to appoint a commission to conduct an inquiry into whether Smith could still effectively perform his duties as sheriff, on March 29, 2006, Smith announced his resignation effective April 15. At the same time, as part of a plea bargain, he pled guilty to one count of malpractice and malfeasance in office. The remaining charges were dismissed; Superior Court Judge Mike Boggs sentenced the former sheriff to one year in jail, which was suspended.
District Attorney Rick Currie stated that an investigation into other issues involving the sheriffs office including the release of prisoners on unauthorized passes, failing to serve felony arrest warrants, and improperly handling bail bonds would continue.
Sources: www.wsbtv.com, www.walb.com, Douglas Daily News
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