GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Minutes after being arrested Thursday night on one felony and three misdemeanor charges related to an admitted affair, Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels vowed to vigorously continue his job – now and after Tuesday’s primary election.
Given the unique option of resigning or going to jail by Ocala State Attorney Brad King, Daniels turned himself in to the Clay County Jail. He was released without bond an hour later.
He promised to fight the charges in court and to continue his campaign for reelection.
“Today is the day that they chose to essentially charge me with things that are such – it’s baffling to me because it takes a stretching of the imagination to understand it personally, knowing that I’m innocent,” Daniels said in a video released by the sheriff’s office.
According to information filed at the Clay County Courthouse, the embattled sheriff was charged with felony charge of tampering with evidence by deleting information or destroying his cellphone, and three misdemeanor charges for making “knowingly false” claims he was being stalked by a former girlfriend. The FDLE was asked to investigate whether Daniels abused his authority by demanding his former lover, Cierra Smith, be arrested.
King’s options were made public five days before the primary election that essentially will determine who will run the sheriff’s office for the next four years.
Daniels, who insisted he’s innocent of the charges, said he will get his day in court.
“I want you to look past the smoke screen of dirty politics,” Daniels said. “One thing I take ownership of as a man is my failures as a husband. That has nothing to do with me as a sheriff.
“The things that I’ve done in my personal life, some of those things were wrong and some things most recently were very wrong. But my job as the sheriff is a different thing.”
Clay County Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless said the charges don’t exclude Daniels from running for office. While the primary is set for Tuesday, the elections office already has received a record number of vote by mail – formerly known as absentee ballots – for the primary. Daniels will keep votes already made for him, as well as any that are casted until the polls close Tuesday night, Chambless said.
Daniels is being challenged by former Atlantic Beach Police Chief Michelle Cook, former Clay County Commissioner Harold Rutledge, former FDLE and State Attorney investigator Mike Taylor, former Clay County Emergency Management Director Ben Carroll and retired U.S. Navy Antiterrorism officer and current employee with the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office Catherine Webb.
Daniels’ problems started when Smith went public about an affair that started when both worked at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Jail. Daniels admitted to the affair after he called CCSO to have Smith arrested in an Oakleaf parking lot. He said she was stalking him.
Smith was briefly detained at the jail, but was released without charges.
Gov. Ron DeSantis then received an anonymous letter from a deputy or officer at CCSO, claiming Daniels made threatening remarks during a morning briefing. Daniels reportedly was angry someone within the department had been leaking information to Facebook about the incident. The anonymous officer said Daniels wanted to “determine who it was and murder the [expletive] that leaked it.”
Daniels not only questioned the timing of King’s findings, but the unusual options he gave the sheriff.
Daniels said King told him to resign immediately, remove his name from the current ballot, return campaign funds and promise to never run for office in the Fourth Judicial Circuit again or face charges.
“Listen, there’s been folks who’ve tried to bully me in my life and that’s one thing Daniels made his first appearance Friday morning he pleaded not guilty. He is due back in court on Aug. 25. Moments later, he was back on the job.
For how long now depends on the voters and a possible trial.