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Arnold enters ‘best interest’ plea

By Crystal Burns

Former Gibson County Sheriff Chuck Arnold entered an Alford or “best interest” plea in Gibson County Circuit Court Tuesday morning.

Arnold, who was charged with aggravated assault, a Class C felony, in March, pled to a Class B misdemeanor. He was ordered to pay court costs but received no time or probation.

According to Philip Bivens, state prosecutor from the 29th Judicial District, Arnold’s 16-year-old step daughter told a school counselor last October that she was being abused by her mother and step father. The subsequent investigation revealed that the juvenile had gone to Shelby County without her mother’s permission. The mother and other family members brought the juvenile home from Shelby County, and she and her mother got into an argument that led to a physical confrontation, Bivens said.

Bivens said that Arnold admitted to investigators that he placed his hands on the child during the confrontation between her and her mother. A TBI press release issued when Arnold was indicted in March said the TBI and Gibson County Sheriff’s Dept. developed information that Arnold strangled a teenager. Bivens, however, said there were no visible injuries on the victim. He also noted that an unruly petition had been filed against the victim, whom the juvenile court placed with her step grandparents.

After the hearing, Arnold’s attorney Ben Dempsey said Arnold’s plea was in the best interest of his family.

“He probably wasn’t guilty,” he said. “We could have had a two-day trial and probably had him acquitted.”

Dempsey said a trial would have been stressful for Arnold’s family. He also noted that the plea does not impact Arnold’s current probation.

In October 2016, Arnold pled guilty to 23 felony charges including theft of property, official misconduct, forgery, facilitation of theft of property, extortion, and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. He was sentenced to 10 years probation and ordered to pay about $8,500 in restitution to the county, including $1,000 to the sheriff’s department drug fund.

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