Sheriff who hung Ten Commandments in government building pleads guilty to extortion and fraud

In 2013, Rutherford County, Tennessee Sheriff Robert Arnold insisted on hanging the Ten Commandments alongside a copy of the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence in the lobby of the Sheriff’s Department — despite a court ruling eight-years prior that forbade the promotion of religion inside government buildings.

“In God We Trust’ is on every single dollar bill,” Arnold said. “These were the founding principles of this country.”

“My job is to uphold the laws. I’m not making anybody do anything. That’s what principles we’re founded upon,” he added.

Fast-forward to January, 2107, and Arnold found himself in a courthouse pleading guilty to three of 14 counts of illegally profiting from inmates through a company selling electronic cigarettes.

According to the Daily News Journal, Arnold pleaded guilty to wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion, with each count carrying up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

From DNJ:

Arnold, his uncle John Vanderveer and Russell have faced a 14-count federal grand jury indictment since late May accusing them of illegally profiting from inmates at the Rutherford County Jail in Murfreesboro through the sale of electronic cigarettes from the defendants’ JailCigs business. A jury trial had been scheduled Feb. 7 prior to the hearings on the guilty pleas. The guilty-plea hearings mentioned in court records as of early Wednesday afternoon did not mention Vanderveer.

Arnold disclosed that he and his wife had earned investment income from JailCigs on a conflict-of-interest form filed January 2015 with the Tennessee Ethics Commission, but this came after he had lied to state auditors in 2014 about making money from the business,  lead prosecuting attorney Cecil VanDevender said while standing before the judge to summarize the case against Arnold.

… the court found probable cause he committed domestic assault, witness tampering and intimidation of his wife pertaining to a Labor Day altercation at the couple’s Murfreesboro home.

Arnold was initially facing 60-years in prison, but a plea agreement knocked that down to 4-6 years, which will ultimately be determined when the judge makes a ruling.

Watch a recap on the story from the Daily News Journal in the video below:

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