Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story 8/8/03

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There must be something in the air in Mississippi's Tunica County. For the second time in four years, the Tunica County sheriff has gone down on corruption charges. Last time, it was plain old extortion. Former Sheriff John Pickett III is currently serving 20 months in federal prison for extorting kickbacks from bail bondsmen wanting to do business in the county. This time, it is extortion and robbing drug dealers. Current Tunica County Sheriff Jerry Ellington was arrested July 30 by federal officials in the same bail bondsman kickback scheme, but was also charged with taking kickbacks from deputies he urged to go out and steal from dealers.

He faces up to 60 years in prison on two counts of extortion and two counts of bribery after an investigation by the FBI, the Mississippi attorney general's office, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, and the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol. According to the indictment against him, Ellington asked for and received more than $5,000 in kickbacks from one deputy in return for giving him a promotion, pay raise, and access to a vehicle for after hours use. The sheriff's office car was to be used "to create further cash for the deputy to kick back illegally to the defendant sheriff and to place the deputy in a position to steal money from drug dealers and others to split with the defendant sheriff," the indictment alleged.

It's not Sheriff Ellington's first encounter with ethical problems. In 1987, while a deputy under currently imprisoned Sheriff Pickett, Ellington was charged with stealing a thousand dollars from the evidence locker. But he paid that back, and a local jury refused to convict him. Pickett then rehired Ellington. Once Pickett went down, Ellington won a 1999 election to replace him. Then, in June, 17 deputies sued Ellington, saying that he threatened their jobs if they didn't buy $25 tickets for his May campaign banquet. "If you don't buy a ticket, you ain't with me, plain and simple," Ellington is heard saying on an audiotape recorded by one of the deputies. "It's just a dollar a day. Most of you throw that away in a day's time on Jujubes."

Whether or not he escapes conviction, Ellington will not be sheriff for long. In a Democratic primary election Tuesday, he was soundly defeated, with his opponent taking 83% of the vote.

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Issue #299, 8/8/03 Note to Readers: Issue #300 and Name Change Coming Up, New Format | Bolivia's Morales Seeks Honest Enforcement Against Traffickers, Not Repression | Marinol Death Sentence: Oregon Man Denied Liver Transplant Because of Prescription -- He's Not the Only One | The Drug War's Daily Grind: One Month in One Police District in Washington, DC | August is Drug Reform Lobbying Month at Home! | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | Newsbrief: Justice Department Orders Government Lawyers to Appeal "Soft" Sentences, Report on Judges Who Issue Them | Newsbrief: Tulia Pardon Decision in Governor's Hands | Newsbrief: COMBAT Anti-Drug Tax Passes in Kansas City | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Tampa Police Enjoying Seized Cars | Newsbrief: Doctrinaire Drug Warrior Confirmed as DEA Head | Newsbrief: Kentucky Teacher Fired for Promoting Hemp Wins Settlement | Newsbrief: Argentina Leads Latin America in Jailed Drug Offenders | Newsbrief: Marijuana Reform Stalled in New Zealand | The Reformer's Calendar
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