Possible Plea Deals For Co-Defendants To Testify Against Sheriff Arnold

Posted at 7:05 PM, Jan 10, 2017

Two defendants could choose to take a plea deal in the case of Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold in order to not stand trial.

Sheriff Arnold, his former jail administrator Joe Russell and uncle John Vanderveer were accused of public corruption stemming from the sale of E-cigs in the the Rutherford County jail.

Yet, just weeks before the trial there's been word of a possible split.

"A lot of times when it gets close to trial you have defendants that will roll on the other and testify against them," said NewsChannel 5 legal analyst Nick Leonardo.

Newschannel 5 has learned there's a tentative plea deal agreement for Russell - an offer that had been on the table for weeks, but with a deadline set to expire. If it gets the judge's approval, he could testify against Arnold.

"He's going to be a key witness in this case because he is co-defendant and close to Sheriff Arnold and these alleged actions," said Leonardo.

There's also indications that the other defendant in the E-cigs case, Vanderveer, must decide before the end of the week whether to agree to similar agreement.

Russell could not be reached for comment and prosecutors aren't talking. Newschannel 5 legal analyst Nick Leonardo said it's likely the plea deals had yet been set in stone.

"It's possible they have tentative agreements, but have not yet gone before the judge yet for a guilty plea," said Leonardo.

Such deals can be fickle and subject to change, but it seemed the two co-defendants were given plenty to consider before the case ends up in court.

There's also talk Arnold may have a plea offer on the table for 5-6 years in prison, but he's said he still likes his chances at trial. 

If Russell and Vanderveer do agree to plea deals, then Sheriff Arnold will stand trial alone beginning on February 7 in Federal Court.