Today in court in Marshall, a judge ordered Searcy County Sheriff Kenney Cassell was NOT to be removed from office.
Original story (October 31, 2011):
Monday, a prosecutor formally asks a judge to remove an elected official from office, all because of some stolen Cornish game hens.
KARK was the first to break this story yesterday.
It's all going down in Searcy County in north central Arkansas.
In 2010, Kenney Cassell was elected to serve as both sheriff and county tax collector.
But rewind to 1979: Cassell was a sheriff's deputy when he pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor for being in possession of some stolen hens.
That confession, a prosecutor says, means it's illegal for Cassell to serve.
"Just made a stupid mistake, that I can see now was stupid and I've never denied and have regretted it, but never denied it," Cassell told KARK yesterday.
Cassell says knows he did wrong.
He said so to voters during his campaign in 2010 and was elected anyway.
His attorney says despite the guilty plea, Cassell is still qualified for his job.
"I do and apparently the people of Searcy County do too," said Cassell's attorney Joe Don Winningham.
But 20th Judicial District prosecutor Cody Hiland disagrees.
The conviction was brought to his attention three months ago by a law enforcement agency, though he was unable to say which.
Monday, he filed a motion to have Cassell removed from office.
We dug into legal arguments why.
The Arkansas Constitution has a provision preventing someone from holding public office if they've committed an "infamous crime."
What does that mean?
The state supreme court has addressed the term twice.
First, in 2005 they ruled that it includes crimes involving the elements of deceit or dishonesty..
In 2010, n a case from Greenwood where a mayor was found to have stolen opponents' campaign signs, justices said it specifically applied to misdemeanor theft.
"I don't think there's any question that the Supreme Court's opinion makes it clear that misdemeanor theft is an infamous crime," Hiland said.
Hiland says there's no time-limit. Not even a pardon, he says, could allow Cassell to serve under the courts interpretation of law.
But Cassell's attorney Joe Don Winningham says this case is a bit different.
"The Sheriff didn't steal them, he was in possession of them. So I think the facts are different," Winningham said.
So the two will duke it out in court. Last week Cassell declined an offer to voluntarily resign.
"I don't think he would be doing service to the people by just saying, I'll go ahead and quit," said Winningham.
Monday, Hiland moved to have Cassell removed, he says, by law he had no other choice.
"Taxpayer dollars to be used for public officials to do what they've been tasked to do under the law and I intend to do it," Hiland said.
The next step is for a Searcy County Circuit Judge to decide if there's merit.
We'll of course, stay with the story and bring you more as it develops.