Tennessee Sheriff Suspended While Awaiting Trial

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CN) – Jailed Rutherford County, Tenn., Sheriff Robert Arnold was suspended without pay Monday by a judge who found that his impending federal trial will distract from his law-enforcement duties.

Arnold, his uncle and an administrative deputy were indicted in May by a federal grand jury on charges of honest services fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, bribery, extortion, obstruction of justice and conspiracy for their roles in a company that sells e-cigarettes to inmates.

Arnold, his uncle John Vanderveer, and Joe Russell II, chief administrative deputy for Rutherford County, each invested $3,000 in October 2013 to start JailCigs LLC, a company selling electronic cigarettes to be used by inmates, according to prosecutors.

Though Arnold denied receiving any profit from the company, prosecutors say he made $66,000 from JailCigs between October 2013 and April 2015.

His trial, originally scheduled for August, was pushed back to Feb. 7, 2017, to allow the defendants time to go through discovery information from the U.S. Justice Department.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Alistair Newbern revoked the sheriff’s $250,000 bond in September, a day after a U.S. attorney presented evidence that Arnold violated the terms of his pretrial release through allegations of domestic abuse involving his wife.

According to local news reports, prosecutors said Arnold came home intoxicated from a pool party earlier this month and became angry when his wife stopped having sex with him. Arnold’s wife allegedly said in phone calls played in court that he shoved her down and punched her in the arm after she tried to get away from him.

On Monday, Davidson County Chancellor Bill Young suspended Arnold, who is in federal custody until his February trial, without pay. The ruling is part of a civil ouster lawsuit filed on behalf of 12 Rutherford County residents seeking to remove Arnold for the JailCigs case.

According to a Daily News Journal report, Young said, “His incarceration, and the preparation of his defense to the charges set forth in this indictment, will undoubtedly unduly distract him from performing his public duties.”

Arnold’s suspension means he will not be getting paychecks from his $127,000 annual salary.

The Rutherford County Commission is set to discuss replacing Arnold at its Thursday meeting, but Mayor Ernest Burgess said they will not choose an interim sheriff this week, according to local news reports.

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