MORGAN COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - A Morgan County judge issued a ruling on Friday stating that Sheriff Ana Franklin and three of her deputies acted criminally and misled the court about it.
Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson said Franklin deliberately misled the court to obtain search warrants for the home of former county jail warden Leon Bradley and the business of blogger Glenda Lockhart.
The judge found that Franklin pursued prosecution against Bradley and Lockhart because she believed the were involved in a whistleblower blog about her department. Bradley was fired over it in 2016.
Thompson said the sheriff's office intentionally withheld facts to obtain the warrants. Some of these alleged facts were that they threatened informant Daniel Lockhart to secure his cooperation, told him to illegally enter the business, lied to an Etowah County investigator to get assistance, and pursued prosecution assistance from various other agencies that all declined to help.
The ruling states that Franklin, Blake Robinson, Robert Wilson and Justin Powell "endeavored to hide or cover up their deception and criminal actions under the color of law."
Thompson ruled that the search warrants were invalid, all evidence gathered must be returned or destroyed, and the action is dismissed with prejudice.
He also ruled that the state's filing for nolle prosequi on March 9 is moot.
Franklin announced she was not running for re-election earlier this year.
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