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Former Clay County Sheriff not guilty on all charges in trial

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — UPDATE: Not Guilty Verdict reached on all charges in the trial of former Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels.

The Former Sheriff was charged with evidence tampering and lying to law enforcement after allegedly having the woman he was having an affair with arrested for stalking.

“I feel good and I promise a press conference at a later time,” Daniels said to reporters outside the courtroom.

Daniels’ defense team said the jury viewed this case for what it was.

“I have been troubled about this case since its inception. I thought the timing of it in terms of Mr. Daniels arrest 5 days before an election was troubling and I’m glad the jury saw through what this was about and arrived at the verdict that they did,” Defense attorney Matthew Kachergus said.

Prosecutors didn’t say much about the verdict itself, but said they were appreciative of the jury.

“The jury system works. The jury heard the evidence, they made a decision, they did their jobs so I appreciate their time,” Assistant State Attorney Richard Buxman said.

Action News Jax Law and Safety expert Dale Carson said though Daniels was found not guilty, he could still face penalties regarding his law enforcement certification.

“He’s a certified police officer and the criminal justice division looks into allegations of misconduct by law enforcement officees and can make administrative penalty thats not concerned of outcome of a criminal trial,” Carson said.

ORIGINAL: The fate of former Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels now rests in the hands of a jury.

The state and defense wrapped up their closing arguments Thursday afternoon

The charges Daniels faces stem from an investigation that began after an encounter between Daniels and his former mistress Cierra Smith in May of 2019.

That incident involved Daniels calling deputies to report a suspicious vehicle after Smith followed his truck.

Smith was arrested for stalking Daniels but was released without being booked into jail or formally charged.

The state is accusing Daniels of destroying evidence and lying to law enforcement after Smith’s arrest to inhibit an FDLE investigation, but the defense argues Daniels was only trying to hide the details of his affair from his wife.

Daniels faces two felonies, one tied to the deletion of his google account and a second tied to his attempt to have his agency phone wiped.

“Do you think it’s just a coincidence that he chose to do this search, and chose to delete a 10-year-old Gmail Google account hours after this event happened?” said Assistant State Attorney Richard Buxman during closing arguments Thursday.

The defense argued Daniels didn’t delete the data to evade law enforcement, but rather his wife.

“It had nothing to do with the law enforcement investigation. It had everything to do with his wife. Just like the Google account,” said Matthew Kachergus, Daniels’ attorney.

Daniels is also charged with five misdemeanor counts of lying to law enforcement.

The state claims Daniels lied about seeking a restraining order against his former mistress the day she was arrested, lied about ending his relationship with her prior to her arrest and lied to FDLE by telling them he didn’t ask for her to be arrested on the scene.

He’s also accused of lying to FDLE about requesting background checks on people tied to his former mistress and about having SnapChat, CashApp and Kick Messenger installed on his agency phone.

The defense calls the charges ‘a witch hunt’.

“Cause this was a witch hunt from the get-go. Ten days after the incident the state attorney’s office flips this on Daniels and wants him prosecuted,” said Kachergus.

But the state contends the investigation started when Daniels called deputies on Smith and Daniels’ actions prevented law enforcement from getting the full story.

“Is that important information to know in the investigation? Clearly, it is. Can we know it? No, because the defendant deleted it. When? The night this all happened,” said Buxman.

Daniels faces a maximum of 15 years if convicted of all charges.

Action News Jax continues to follow this story and will provide an update as soon as the jury reaches a verdict

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