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FBI seizes Henry County sheriff's paperwork, computer

FBI seizes Henry County sheriff's paperwork, computer

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Henry County Sheriff Frank Cassell

Eric Brady | The Roanoke Times

Henry County Sheriff Frank Cassell walks outside the Poff Federal Building in Roanoke.

U.S. Attorney John Brownlee talks about the investigation of the Henry County Sheriff's Office at a press conference held today at the Poff Federal Building in Roanoke.

Sam Dean | The Roanoke Times

U.S. Attorney John Brownlee talks about the investigation of the Henry County Sheriff's Office at a press conference held today at the Poff Federal Building in Roanoke.

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Federal investigators seized years' worth of evidence logs, along with old case files and the sheriff's own computer, when they swarmed the Henry County Sheriff's Office on Thursday.

According to search warrant returns filed in federal court on Friday, FBI agents took narcotics worksheets, destruction of evidence letters, firearms logs and forfeited drug money forms in the hopes of supporting corruption charges against Sheriff Frank Cassell and 19 others, including seven civilians.

Many of the 12 current and former deputies charged in the case are suspected of stealing drugs, guns and other evidence from the sheriff's office either for their own use or for sale in the community, records show. At least one officer is charged with falsifying destruction orders for drugs, then having them sold.

Cassell himself is accused of lying to federal investigators and failing to take action when he found out his men may have been breaking the law. Prosecutor Tom Bondurant has said in court that he plans to build 90 percent of his case against Cassell on conversations that were covertly recorded by former Sgt. James Vaught.

The sheriff, who was said to be contemplating a return to work on Friday, did not show up.

"He needs a day, and I think he's entitled to a day to sort of step back to assess the situation, have a thoughtful assessment of what's happened," said one of Cassell's attorneys, John Lichtenstein.

Lichtenstein and John Fishwick Jr. issued a statement Friday asking the community to presume their client innocent for now and "wait for evidence rather than accusation."

Although the Henry County Board of Supervisors has called for Cassell's resignation after 40 years in law enforcement, there was no indication Friday that any decision had been made. Lichtenstein said Cassell "will think about things over the weekend."

All but two defendants in the case -- both civilians -- have been released on bond, and Cassell was the only sheriff's office employee allowed to return to law enforcement work under his bond conditions.

Capt. Lane Perry, the highest-ranking officer remaining in the sheriff's department after Cassell and Maj. James Keaton were indicted this week, issued a news release Friday saying that he was in charge and Keaton had been placed on administrative leave.

Six deputies and investigators named in the indictment were also placed on leave, and canine officer Walter Hairston was fired, the release stated.

Perry said Investigator Curtis Spence, who was not charged, was promoted to acting sergeant over the vice squad.

Despite the sheriff's absence and the upheaval in the department, deputies have been able to respond to all of their calls without backup from the Virginia State Police, according to Henry County Administrator Benny Summerlin. State police representatives have said they will provide additional troopers if necessary.

Also on Friday, two more defendants, William Randall Reed and Mark Anthony Roberson, appeared in federal court and were released on bond. Both are civilians.

That leaves just two of the 20 defendants in the case who have not yet had their first appearance in court.

Roanoke lawyer Tony Anderson said his client, former school resource officer David Allan King, will turn himself in Monday. Vaught, who cooperated with authorities, will appear later this month.

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