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Ex-Tennessee Sheriff Pleads Not Guilty

  Criminal Law  -   POSTED: 2008/03/06 11:37

A former county sheriff pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal extortion, drug and weapons charges that stem from an FBI undercover investigation.

Court records show that between April and mid-December, Billy Long, 55, accepted $17,400 in what he was told were payments from convenience store owners "to protect their video poker business and other illegal activity," such as products used to make methamphetamine.

Long was arrested Feb. 2. He has since resigned as Hamilton County sheriff and remains in custody at the Bradley County Detention Center.

He appeared at a hearing at which U.S. Magistrate Bill Carter set a May 13 trial.

In addition to possession with intent to distribute cocaine, Long is charged with extortion, money laundering, providing a gun to a felon and possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.

A conviction on all charges would carry a minimum prison sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life.

Long's attorney, Jerry Summers of Chattanooga, told the judge he intends to seek bond. Summers earlier opted to not seek a detention hearing but said Wednesday it is not practical to prepare for trial with Long in custody 30 miles away.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Humble at a previous hearing described the sheriff as a danger to the community.

The affidavit said Long also accepted $6,550 in cash as "his payoff to the undercover to a cooperating witness supposedly laundering $625,000 in drug trafficking proceeds." Long was told the drug money was being sent to a funeral home in Mexico hidden in cremation urns.

The affidavit said the sheriff in December gave the undercover informant a loaded revolver, knowing the recipient of the gun was a convicted felon and telling him never to say where he got it and to get rid of it if he shot anyone.

An FBI agent's affidavit shows Long first told agents he was doing his own investigation, although no one else at the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department knew about it.

Chief Deputy Allen Branum is running the department until voters in August elect a successor to finish Long's term.

Summers said Wednesday there is no evidence that anyone else in the department was involved in the case.


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