Judge: Morgan Co. sheriff, deputies broke law and lied in court

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Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson ruled on Friday that Sheriff Ana Franklin and three of her deputies acted criminally and lied to the court about it.

In a testimony given during a hearing in the criminal case of Leon Bradley on April 20, it was revealed Franklin lied about how her offices obtained the information that authorized a search warrant for a local blogger Glenda Lockhart.

Bradley, a longtime Morgan County warden was fired in 2016 after Franklin accused him of leaking information to Lockhart to use on her blog, the Morgan County Whistleblower.

For years, the blog has been critical of Franklin and her office. Lockhart was the first to show evidence that Franklin used the Morgan County jail’s food fund to invest $150,000 in a crooked car lot. She published the cashier’s checks showing where Franklin withdrew the $160,000, and a deposit slip showing where the used car lot put more than $150,000 in its bank account a few days later.

Franklin herself testified saying she gave Lockhart’s grandson, Daniel Lockhart, $500 to work as a “confidential informant” and provide evidence to the sheriff’s office. However, Daniel said that we was approached by Sgt. Blake Robinson, who told him he would pay him to gather information about any sheriff’s office employees who were providing information to the blog.

Daniel, not knowing his grandmother was the target of the investigation, hacked into his grandmother’s e-mail and her blog, taking pictures of the emails between his grandmother and Bradley.

Robinson said Daniel’s actions were lawful, but Stephen McGlathery; an Investigator from the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office who was sent to take over the case, disagreed.

“From the way it sounds, they paid him a substantial amount of money and he did go into the property he didn’t authority to and took items that did not belong to him,” McGlathery testified.

Judge Thompson’s ruling given on Friday states that Franklin, Robinson, Robert Wilson and Justin Powell “endeavored to hide or cover up their deception and criminal actions under the color of law,” also ruling that the search warrants were invalid, all evidence gathered must be returned or destroyed, and that the state’s filing for nolle prosequi on March 9 is moot.

Read the full documents of the case here.