Sheriff Robert Arnold On Suicide Watch; May Consider Pleading Guilty

Posted at 8:02 PM, Nov 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-17 21:38:55-05

Embattled Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold was placed on suicide watch and on notice for passing contraband. Yet, he told his wife he "loves himself to much to kill himself."

Those close to him do said he's not doing well behind bars, and there's talk Arnold could consider pleading guilty to corruption charges.

The latest blow for Arnold was the indictment of a close colleague of his at the sheriff's department. Terry McBurney pleaded not guilty in federal court.

He was hired by Sheriff Arnold and is charged with lying about his citizenship when applying for his job as a deputy.

McBurney didn't talk to NewsChannel 5, but his lawyer Luke Evans did.

"To have such allegations against you has to be gutwrenching for anyone," said Evans.

John Dunn with the state comptrollers office who filed a report on McBurney's situation also commented on his close relationship with the sheriff.

"That deputy who is now a major is also related to the sheriff," said Dunn.

By most accounts McBurney and Arnold were close.   McBurney is the latest domino to fall.

  And Arnold is said to be feeling the pressure in federal detention in Kentucky where he is awaiting his corruption trial in February.

"It's just even more concerning evidence of wrong doing at the sheriff's department and we've heard about it for almost two years now," said Rutherford County Commissioner Brad Turner.

Those close to Arnold say he's well aware of the growing case against him.

In fact, Arnold is now on suicide watch, at times dressed only in a paper smock and slippers.

"Very difficult. Very stressful," said Arnold's wife Megan last month about her husband's time incarcerated.

But she says her husband told her Wednesday night that he's freezing in his suicide observation cell ... and that he loves himself to much to kill himself.

Arnold also has apparently been a less than model inmate -- put on notice for exchanging contraband -- specifically food -- with inmates in other cells.

He still maintains his innocense and refuses to officially resign as sheriff ... but there's talk that if Arnold decides he can't win in February ... he'd consider pleading guilty to avoid a trial and be moved to a more comfortable federal prison now.

Will that happen? It's just something else on the table. The U-S attorney will not comment about the case.

But experts say if Arnold would be willing to accept the same sentence as if he was convicted at trial then it could happen.