GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels Friday night after the embattled sheriff was arrested a day earlier following a year-long investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office.
DeSantis’ executive order states Daniels can’t serve as the county’s sheriff or be paid until a new executive order is issued after one felony charge of destroying evidence and three misdemeanor charges of making false claims a former lover was stalking him.
The order states “State Attorney for the Fifth Judicial Circuit to the Fourth Judicial Circuit to represent the State of Florida relating to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s investigation of Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels for allegations of official misconduct, pursuant to section 27.151(3), Florida Statutes, is no longer confidential.”
Daniels didn’t comment late Friday on the governor’s actions.
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.
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 ballots – 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 Cierra 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.
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 and he pleaded not guilty. Moments later, he was back on the job.