by David M. Reutter
A former Missouri sheriff who campaigned on getting tough on drug dealers was sentenced to six months in prison plus four months on house arrest after pleading guilty to identity theft and wire fraud.
The fall from grace of Cory Hutcheson, 36, the former sheriff of Mississippi County, came as a result of a federal investigation into his practice of tracking cell phones without a warrant. Beginning in 2014, Hutcheson, who was then a deputy, applied for thousands of searches and illegally accessed information on 200 mobile phone users, according to federal prosecutors.
He abused a service provided by prison telecom company Securus Technologies that allows law enforcement agencies to obtain the GPS coordinates of cell phones. That service requires search warrants, which Hutcheson never obtained. Instead, he uploaded fake documents that he sometimes notarized himself.
“Further, the defendant had the audacity to upload entirely irrelevant documents including his health insurance policy, his auto insurance policy, and pages selected from Sheriff training manuals,” prosecutors wrote in a court pleading. This went on for three years, even after he was interviewed by FBI agents.
Hutcheson became sheriff in January 2017. In the first four months on the job, he and his deputies made nearly 90 arrests using shady tactics. “The defendant’s conduct has resulted in dismissal of dozens of cases brought based on information he obtained illegally in an abuse of many suspects’ constitutional rights,” prosecutors stated.
He was arrested in April 2018 by state police on 18 charges, 15 of which were based on illicit cell phone tracking. The other three were for robbery, assault and filing a false declaration related to a dispute with two elderly women who ran a hair salon. They were withholding a paycheck from Hutcheson’s sister, who allegedly stole the salon’s appointment book.
Additionally, Hutcheson faced a 28-count federal indictment related to illegally tracking the cell phones of state troopers and a Mississippi County judge. [See: PLN, Dec. 2018, p.58].
Prosecutors said Hutcheson had a “penchant for lawless behavior during his tenure as a law enforcement officer.” He faced 20 years in prison, yet in a sweetheart deal all of the state charges and 26 counts of the federal indictment were dismissed when the former sheriff pleaded guilty in November 2018.
At his April 30, 2019 sentencing hearing, Hutcheson called his conduct “a lapse in judgment.” He also faces several lawsuits for his misconduct, which remain pending. One of those cases involves the death of jail prisoner Tory Sanders, who died on May 4, 2017 while being restrained by then-Sheriff Hutcheson and jail administrator Sally Yanez. At the time, Hutcheson’s law enforcement license had been suspended.
He reported to FCI Forrest City Low in Arkansas on June 20, 2019 to begin serving his six-month prison term. Following his release, Hutcheson will be on three years of community supervision.
Sources: riverfronttimes.com, semissourian.com, kfvs12.com
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