‘This type of government overreach has to stop’

Not guilty: Former sheriff Daniels cleared of lying to investigators, tampering with evidence

By Don Coble don@claytodayonline.com
Posted 9/21/22

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Saying he was grateful a Clay County jury found him not guilty on all seven charges stemming from a six-year extramarital affair, former Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels …

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‘This type of government overreach has to stop’

Not guilty: Former sheriff Daniels cleared of lying to investigators, tampering with evidence

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Saying he was grateful a Clay County jury found him not guilty on all seven charges stemming from a six-year extramarital affair, former Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels compared his three-year ordeal to the persecution of former president Donald Trump and called out the abuse of power by government entities.

The state tried to convince jurists he lied to investigators about the affair and that he wanted his former mistress arrested for stalking. Prosecutors also said he attempted to destroy and tamper with evidence.

Daniels’ defense team said he was trying to hide information about the affair from his wife to save his marriage.

The jury needed less than three hours on Thursday, Sept. 15, to agree with Daniels.

Known for his bravado, Daniels issued a statement following the verdict:

“I would like to thank the jury for their service and thank all of the people of Florida for their support during this challenging time for me and for my family. The abuse and overreach that I have had to endure over the past three years is an example of what happens when sectors of our government go unchecked. If this abuse of power by government entities can happen to a duly elected sheriff, then it can happen to anyone. I pledge to all Floridians and people from across the country who offered their support during these trying times, that I will continue to fight for them to ensure that we all receive equal justice under the law. This abuse cost me my job that I loved and it cost Clay County their sheriff. Similar to what we are seeing happen to former President Donald Trump and now with the Biden Administration working to hire 87,000 new IRS agents to harass and abuse Americans across the country, this type of government overreach has to stop. I look forward to identifying ways to continue to serve the people and working to ensure that the government works for them and not to persecute them."

His mistress, Cierra Smith, and Clay County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Christopher Ruby testified Daniels ordered Smith the be arrested for stalking him. She was stopped on May 6, 2019, in an Oakleaf Village Parkway parking lot and taken to the Clay County Jail. Smith said Daniels asked to meet her to get a copy of a CD of an internal investigation at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office where it was likely he would be identified as having an affair when both Smith and Daniels worked for JSO.

Smith wasn’t charged or booked after other agency officials said there wasn’t any probable cause. CCSO then drove Smith home.

Within days, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement launched an investigation. They obtained a warrant for seven charges, and the sheriff was arrested on Aug. 13, 2020 – just five days before the 2020 primary. He wound up losing to Michelle Cook by 3,121 votes.

The state found more than 2,000 texts and voice messages between the couple.

Prosecutors said Daniels lied to Ruby at the scene, telling him he attempted to get a restraining order against Smith earlier in the day. However, the Clay County Clerk’s Office said there were no records of any requests.

Assistant State Attorney Toby Hunt told the jury Daniels took action to alter evidence, including asking a CCSO tech to wipe out records on his agency-issued phone.

“He actually did destroy evidence because there is no way for the state to retrieve that now,” Hunt said.

“It's just a coincidence that you chose to do this search and chose to delete a 10-year-old Gmail Google account immediately after the woman he had a six-year affair with gets arrested involving him?”

Defense attorney Matthew Kachergus challenged the integrity of Smith and Ruby’s testimony in his closing remarks. Daniels told FDLE he never asked Ruby to arrest Smith.

Kachergus said anything erased or hidden by Daniels was to keep his wife from learning the sorted details of their relationship.

After the verdict, Daniels hugged his defense team.

“I feel good. I promise a press conference at a later time,” Daniels said.

Kachergus again fired back at the state for bringing any charges against his client.

“Mr. Daniels’ arrest five days before an election was troubling, and I'm glad that the jury saw through what this was about and arrived at the verdict that they did. (I’m) glad that my client is able to go home tonight, put this behind him and start the next chapter of his life.”

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