Outgoing Circuit Judge Makes Accusations Towards Sheriff's Office

Harsh accusations from the outgoing circuit judge in Harlan County, who says he's heard the county sheriff's department has received payoffs from drug dealers.

The sheriff says it never happened.

While presiding over a drug case in Harlan Circuit Court Wednesday, Judge Ron Johnson asked defendant John Madden who he sold drugs to.

When Madden said Granville Sargent, Johnson said he remembered meeting Sargent while campaigning for his recent unsuccessful re-election bid and remembered something Sargent told him.

"Granville Sargent informed me that while he was working for an informant for the Harlan County Sheriff's office that he picked up a payoff for the sheriff's office," Johnson said.

Sheriff Steve Duff denies the claim, "There's no truth to them, that this office has every solicited or received any monies from anybody whatsoever."

"He's basing something on hearsay, something he even says he didn't know was true. Yet he wants to blast me publicly," Sheriff Duff said.

Johnson says he'll contribute what he heard to an ongoing investigation looking into possible corruption in the Harlan County Sheriff's Office that he requested earlier this year.

While Sheriff Duff denies any wrongdoing, he says it's hard to control drug informants.

"The only really control any police agency has over informants is when you're with that person. After you leave that informant you don't know what they do or do not do," Sheriff Duff said.

Because of his own personal knowledge Judge Johnson recommended sending John Madden's case to a judge outside Harlan County.

As for Johnson's remarks, it's still unclear how they'll affect the ongoing investigation into the sheriff's office.

Sheriff Steve Duff says he's filing a complaint with the state judicial ethics commission against Judge Ron Johnson.

Johnson would not comment further on his remarks in court because he says they relate to the ongoing grand jury investigation.


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