Morgan County court hearing turns spotlight on sheriff’s office, testimony includes multiple surprises

Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin

DECATUR, Ala. — A hearing in the misdemeanor criminal case against former Morgan County Jail warden Leon Bradley resulted in a number of surprises concerning the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, including a law enforcement officer contradicting the sworn testimony of Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin and two of her investigators.

Bradley is charged with one count of tampering with government documents, but prosecutors announced last month they will nolle prosse – decline to go forward – with the case after Bradley’s lawyers cited problems with the search warrants.

But Bradley’s lawyers want a dismissal of the charges with prejudice – meaning it can’t be brought up again. The hearing Friday at the Morgan County Courthouse focused on Bradley’s  attorneys Nick Heatherly and Robert Tuten’s motions to dismiss the charges and suppress the search warrant.

The case is rooted in Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin’s feud with Morgan County Whistleblower blogger Glenda Lockhart. After investigators said they believed a law enforcement source, possibly Bradley, was providing information from the sheriff’s office to the blog, the sheriff’s office enlisted a confidential informant to gather information on Lockhart.

The defense argued the confidential informant had no legal right to gather information from Lockhart’s drywall business in Falkville. They said the judge who issued the search was misled by investigators about the informant’s work.

Testimony Friday contained a number of major surprises:

  • The confidential informant used in the case is the grandson of the Morgan County blogger Glenda Lockhart, who Sheriff Ana Franklin has long feuded with. The young man was paid $500 to enter the business and gather materials that were the basis for the search warrant;
  • Two Morgan County investigators said they drove around the FBI office parking lot Huntsville, looking for cars they recognized in order to find out what Morgan County Sheriff’s Office employees had been talking to the FBI. One of the investigators said they heard 30 to 40 sheriff’s office employees had spoken to the FBI;
  • An Etowah County Sheriff’s investigator testified they came in to assist on the Bradley case, but based on what they’ve learned, they felt Morgan County investigators lied to them, used them and they wouldn’t have taken the case given what they know now

One of the major claims in the case was that keylogger software, designed to log key strokes, was installed on blogger Glenda Lockhart’s computer. Morgan County investigators and Sheriff Ana Franklin denied, under oath Friday, any knowledge of that.

But Madison County Sheriff’s Capt. Mike Salomonsky testified that he attended a meeting with Franklin and the investigators before the search warrant was issued, where they asked him to sign the search warrant. He testified they told him they expected to get information from the keylogger software that would support the warrant.

Salomonsky declined to sign the warrant request.

Sheriff Franklin testified that she asked multiple agencies to investigate the Morgan County Whistleblower blog and its operator. She asked the FBI, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the Madison County and Limestone County sheriff’s offices to do an investigation. They all turned her down.