The Panola County sheriff, who had previously been suspended after he was arrested in February, was removed from office on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to tampering with a government record, a felony.
According to Smith County district attorney Matt Bingham, Ronald Clinton entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to three years probation. He surrendered his law enforcement (TCLEOSE) license and resigned his office, effective immediately.
In a petition filed in the 123rd District Court in Panola County, prosecutors cited an investigation headed by Texas Ranger Brent Davis centered around money the then-sheriff-elect received to attend a workshop for new sheriffs in Austin.
According to Davis' investigation, then-Deputy Clinton asked the Panola County Judge for a travel advance of $882.50 for the New Sheriff's School in Austin December 9-14, 2012. The judge approved those county funds to be paid to Clinton.
Bingham says Clinton was apologetic in court, telling the court and his family he was sorry for his actions. Clinton said law enforcement did nothing wrong and praised prosecutors, Texas Rangers and the FBI.
Clinton was originally charged with theft by a public servant, abuse of official capacity and tampering with a governmental record. Prosecutors agreed to drop the other charges against the former lawman if he would plead guilty to the tampering charge.
Bingham said that the special prosecutors main role was to finish the case and let the county move on. He added that Panola County needed to a get a full-time sheriff to protect the citizens.
Clinton was also ordered to pay back the $1,000 he took from the county.
Kevin Lake, the former chief deputy, is serving as the interim sheriff.
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