MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – Robert Arnold is now the former sheriff of Rutherford County after he pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges Wednesday and is now a convicted felon.
Arnold entered the courtroom in a green jailhouse jumpsuit, handcuffs and leg shackles.
His wife Megan sat behind him in the gallery, with the former sheriff turning around and asking, “How are you?”
During the hour-long hearing, Arnold admitted guilt to three of the 14 federal charges he was facing.
He pleaded guilty of wire fraud, honest services fraud, and extortion. Each count carries a sentence of five to 20 years and $250,000 fine each.
“We think his guilty plea will hold him accountable for his criminal conduct, and we look forward to the sentencing in this matter,” said Acting United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Jack Smith. “Arnold’s conduct is in no way representative of the heroic work that agents in this district do every day, and law enforcement does for our communities in this district every day.”
Virgil Gammon, the man who warned the sheriff about his involvement with the JailCigs business, also attended the plea hearing.
“He would ask me what I think he should do, and I told him he needed to get an attorney and go see the district attorney, but I said you’re finished,” Gammon said. “It’s been a long time coming, I’m not gloating about it, it’s just a lot of people got hurt.”
Gammon was asked if he had any words for Arnold.
“Well, I don’t know if I have any,” Gammon said. “Like I said, I’m not here to gloat. I hate it for his children, you know. his mother and other people, but I also hate it for all the employees and the people who paid the price down there. I hate that they are victims. There are people that are never going to recover, never going to recover from this.”
But would he be able to recover after being fired by Arnold?
Gammon stood in silence, becoming emotional when asked that question.
Arnold will also have to pay restitution in the amount of $52,500, the amount Rutherford County should have made on commission from the sale of the e-cigarettes.
Joe Leggitt with the Oust Sheriff Arnold group says this day was a long time coming.
“It’s a good start for the citizens of Rutherford County,” Leggitt said. “This is what the citizens deserves is justice and a good integrity in the department and a good strong leader and I think we got that now.”
Arnold also filed a motion to be released from jail until his sentencing hearing, but federal prosecutors said they need at least until Friday to respond to the motion.
“I don’t think that would be a luxury afforded to most people,” Leggitt said. “I don’t necessary think that would be right for him.”
The judge scheduled Arnold’s sentencing hearing for May 8, but his attorney asked that the date be moved up.
“As we said in court we will oppose that, I’m not going to talk about that more here today,” Smith said.”
On a side note, co-defendant Joe Russell is schedule to enter a guilty plea on Friday. Russell’s plea hearing has been moved to 2:30 in the afternoon.