Trial of former Clay County sheriff begins Monday

Julie Morgan

The trial of former Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels is set to start Monday in Green Cove Springs.

Daniels is charged with tampering with evidence, trying to destroy evidence, and five counts of providing false information to law enforcement.

Once revealed, the story played out in the news like a soap opera. Daniels, who was voted into office in 2016, allegedly had his former mistress arrested for stalking in May 2019. Prior to the arrest, Daniels had admitted to his wife that he had an affair with Cierra Smith and that the relationship was over.

The affair started when the two worked together in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Daniels was the jail director, and Smith was a corrections officer. There was an investigation into the affair and Smith’s arrest. Following the investigation, Daniels was initially charged with only one count of tampering with evidence and three counts of making a false report. He was arrested in August 2020.

The former top cop is also accused of deleting evidence from an online account and cell phone data. Investigators say Daniels lied to them about his actions when word of the affair got out.

The 57-year-old faces up to 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine on the two third-degree felonies and five first-degree misdemeanor charges.

Jury selection is expected to take one day, with opening arguments on Tuesday.

The trial starts after a few delays. It was first scheduled for December 2021, then again for February 2022, and later for May 2022.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson recused herself from the case citing a conflict of interest. All Clay County judges also recused themselves.

Judge R. Lee Smith of St Johns County will preside over the case. The jury pool will be selected from Clay County residents.

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