DECATUR, Ala. - Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin agreed Tuesday to plead guilty to a federal charge of failing to file an income tax return, but under Alabama law, the sheriff won’t lose her job.
Conviction on a felony charge would have required her immediate removal from office, but not a misdemeanor, as in this case.
But it won’t be long before a new sheriff takes over. Franklin didn't run for a third term and is leaving office in January.
Sheriff-elect Ron Puckett is set to be sworn-in in mid-January.
Alabama code section 36-9-2 addresses criminal convictions in office: "When any person holding any office or place under the authority of this state is convicted by any court of the United States, of this state or of any other state of a felony, his office or place shall be vacated from the time of the conviction. If the judgment is reversed, new trial granted or judgment notwithstanding the verdict is rendered, he shall be restored to office; but, if pardoned, he shall not be restored to office."
She faces a up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine. Prosecutors said in a court filing they weren’t recommending a sentence in the case, but instead deferring to the judge’s decision.
The charge stems from money Franklin earned in 2015, but failed to report on her taxes by April 2016.
Alabama law also bars people from voting and running for office if they’re convicted of crimes of “moral turpitude.” State law contains an extensive list of such crimes, ranging from violence and sex charges, to treason, theft, burglary and forgery. But, failure to file an income tax return is not on the list.
A sheriff in Alabama can be impeached on a number of grounds, including corruption in office, incompetence, neglect of duty and drunkenness.
The law also has a list of offenses that can lead to a person being removed from office, including those “who shall have been convicted of treason, embezzlement of public funds, malfeasance in office, larceny, bribery or any other crime punishable by imprisonment in the state or federal penitentiary and those who are idiots or insane.”