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Morgan County Sheriff agrees to plead guilty to federal charge

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MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. – Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin has agreed to plead guilty Tuesday in federal court for failure to file a tax return. The charge dates back to income that she received in 2015 and failed to file in her 2016 tax return, court records show. The IRS requires any income over the amount of $10,400 be reported.

“We expect all of our citizens, to include and especially our public officials to promptly and accurately file their tax returns,” US Attorney Jay Town said in a news release.  “The Department of Justice will continue to federally charge those who fail to do so.  We appreciate the investigative work of IRS-CID and FBI Birmingham.”

While the charge can carry a sentence of up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, prosecutors made no recommendation about the sentence she should receive.

“As we approach the tax filing season, this case should be an example of what happens when you fail to file and pay your taxes,” Thomas Holloman, IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, said.  “Doing so may subject you to significant penalties,  fines,  and the possibility of jail time.”

Sheriff Franklin was elected to the position in 2010, re-elected in 2014, but did not seek re-election in November for a third term. Her successor, sheriff-elect Ron Puckett, said he was disappointed to hear the news.

“I, like most in Morgan County, am disappointed in the news. However, we have been and will continue to be focused on the future,” Puckett said in a statement. “As our transition plans continue, I’m confident our best days are ahead of us.”

Franklin declined to comment and referred WHNT News 19 to her attorney.

The two-term sheriff has faced a number of allegations of misconduct while serving as Morgan County’s top cop.

A settlement has been reached in the bankruptcy case involving a failed car dealership Franklin was a part of. The sheriff has been ordered to pay a total of $34,000 in the case.

Bill Gray, a Birmingham-based attorney representing Franklin in the bankruptcy case, released a statement regarding the settlement.

“Sheriff Franklin is extremely pleased with the tentative resolution she has reached with bankruptcy trustee Stuart Maples. The settlement encompasses two parts. First, Sheriff Franklin will pay $34,000, which she agrees she owes to Maples as the bankruptcy trustee. Franklin personally owed $34,000, and no more than that, for equipment she purchased, personally, at the time Priceville Partners closed its doors. Thus, she is paying her debt in full.

“Second, the agreement allows Sheriff Franklin’s claim for $150,000, to be paid if Maples wins his adversarial proceedings against the owners of Priceville Partners. Franklin made an economic decision based on the expected recovery and the cost of litigation to obtain that recovery. Franklin is optimistic that Maples will succeed on his claims against the former owners, in which case she hopes to recover some or all of the $150,000.”

Another judge also allowed a different federal case against Franklin to move forward. Her attorney’s filed a motion to dismiss the case brought by Morgan County blogger, Glenda Lockhart. The lawsuit alleges the sheriff and two deputies illegally searched and damaged her business in retaliation for Lockhart’s political blog.

This week the motion to dismiss the case was denied on the basis that Franklin is not entitled to absolute immunity from the blogger’s claim for damages.

This is a developing story. Stick with WHNT News 19 as we gather further information.

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