Raleigh, N.C. — Former Robeson County Sheriff Glenn Maynor was sentenced Thursday to six years in federal prison as part of a six-year investigation into corruption in the county.
Maynor, 61, who served as sheriff from 1994 until 2004, pleaded guilty last September to lying to a grand jury and misusing federal funds. He was sentenced to one year in prison on the first charge and another five years on the second one, with the sentences to be served consecutively.
The six-year-long federal and state investigation into the Robeson County Sheriff's Office, dubbed Operation Tarnished Badge, has led to charges against 22 law enforcement officers. More serious charges include kidnapping, money laundering and burning houses during drug raids.
"We started with the lowest of the low. Basically, the investigation started with drug dealers who were telling us they had been robbed or abused in some manner by law enforcement. From those witnesses, we worked all the way up to the sheriff," U.S. Attorney George Holding said.
"The corruption in the sheriff's department has been a horrid chapter in the history of Robeson County," Holding said, noting the case remains under investigation.
The sentencing marked a long fall from grace from the new sheriff who stressed his the importance of honesty and always doing the right thing in a 1997 interview with WRAL News.
""Good always outweighs evil," he said in that 1997 interview. "The biggest mistake that we can make in life is to forget where we come from."
U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle angrily rejected a plea deal last month that would have sent Maynor to jail for 18 to 24 months, saying the punishment didn't fit the crime. Maynor set a bad example for the deputies under his command, the judge said.
Defense attorneys argued Thursday for a shorter sentence, saying Maynor suffers from health problems and already has suffered by losing his office and his reputation.
Prosecutors, who earlier said a lighter sentence was justified, said Thursday that Maynor not only failed to root out the corruption in his office but also took part in it.
"I realize that I dropped the ball," a shaken Maynor said in court as he choked back tears.
He blamed his lack of oversight on trying to attend to family health problems at the time.
"He let the people of Robeson County down by doing such a terrible job as sheriff," defense attorney Doug Parsons said.
Boyle questioned why the state hadn't cracked down sooner on corruption in Robeson County. State Bureau of Investigation Director Robin Pendergraft said after the sentencing that authorities have been working the case for six years.
"It took a long time to get a crack and to get into what was going on," Pendergraft said, calling Maynor's sentence symbolic.
"The head of an agency, particularly a law enforcement agency, is deemed responsible for the management of the organization," she said.
Holding said his office agreed to the original plea deal because the 18- to 24-month prison sentence fell within federal sentencing guidelines. He said prosecutors agreed with Boyle decision to depart from the guidelines and impose a stiffer sentence.
Prosecutors said the residents of Robeson County were the real winners after Maynor's guilty plea and sentence.
"It gives them the opportunity to be free for the first time in a very long time from the political corruption that has been, as Mr. Holding said, haunting that county. I think that that is the important part," Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Bradsher said.
Boyle also ordered Maynor to pay $17,550 in restitution for the misused money and to spend three years on supervised release after he gets out of prison.
Maynor is scheduled to report to prison on Aug. 1. There was no word on where he would serve his sentence.
As he left the federal courthouse in downtown Raleigh, Maynor's words echoed those he said in the 1997 WRAL News interview: "I get emotional when I talk a lot of time, because I am a Christian," he said in that interview.
On Thursday, it appeared Maynor would turn to that faith in his latest struggle: "I'll continue to trust in the Lord," he said.