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Trial Delay Or Plea Deal Possible In Sheriff Corruption Case

Posted at 6:07 PM, Dec 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-12 19:26:22-05

Could the case against embattled Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold settle without a high-profile trial? Some have said the faster this sad chapter ends the better, and now there have been talks of a possible plea deal.

It would either that or the possibility of a further delay postponing the trial date.

For now, Sheriff Robert Arnold has been locked up, stripped of powers, and county leaders have already been working on finding a replacement.

Hanging above it all:  Arnold still must stand trial here in federal court in February, but maybe that won't happen.

Arnold, his sheriff's office administrator Joe Russell, and his uncle John Vanderveer have all been awaiting trial on a 14-count federal indictment.

They have been accused of illegally profiting from inmates through the sale of E-cigs in the jail.

"There are several different charges with long names, but at the end of the day it's public corruption," said NewsChannel 5 legal analyst Nick Leonardo.

Now, Russell and Vanderveer, have have both remained free on pre-trial release, have been wanting the February trial date delayed.

"The other two are on release, so of course they are okay to postpone, but obviously Arnold wants it to move forward in February," said Leonardo.

If the delay is granted, Arnold could ask to have his case severed from the other two, but it may not come to that if a plea deal can be reached.

NewsChannel 5 learned of negotiations, a possible move to drop eleven of the charges with the accused accepting prison sentences of between five and ten years.

The sticking point? All three would have to agree to the deal.

"If you have to have all three plead guilty, the chances are if it involves jail time for the other two they may want to take their chances," said Leonardo.

Plea deals can be fickle. Unless Arnold and the others agree to exactly what the feds want in these negotiations, there's still a very good chance he will stand trial.

The Assistant U.S. Attorney has filed a motion asking the federal judge to hold a hearing later in December on whether to grant a delay on Arnold's corruption trial.