Ex-mistress testifies in trial of former Clay County sheriff

Zoey Fields

Cierra Smith, former Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels’ ex-mistress, took the stand Tuesday morning as the first witness in Daniels’ trial for attempting to destroy and tamper with evidence.

The former sheriff and Smith began their affair while employed by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. He was the director of the jail, while she worked as a corrections officer for the department.

Former Clay County sheriff Darryl Daniels stands alongside his lawyers during day one of his trial involving his ex-mistress.Zoey Fields, NewsBreak

Daniels was arrested in August 2020 after an investigation into the affair.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office began an internal affairs investigation into their relationship while they were both employed there. Smith’s ex-husband sparked the investigation.

Smith testified that Daniels was going to tell his wife about the affair before the investigation went public. By this time, Daniels had been elected Clay County sheriff.

After Daniels’ wife was informed of the affair in April of 2019, Daniels had Smith arrested a few days later on May 6 for

trespassing and stalking him. She was never booked into the Clay County Jail and, instead, her case was transferred to a different agency.

“I heard him say ‘go ahead and make the arrest,’” Smith testified

about Daniels’ comments to a coworker to arrest her on May 6.

She testified that she and Daniels had plans to meet on May 6 so that she could provide him with CDs from the internal affairs investigation which, allegedly, had a recorded phone call between Daniels and Smith’s ex-husband, she said.

The two arranged to meet at a park in Oakleaf, she said, later identified as the Oakleaf Village Athletic Center. When there were no vacant parking spots, she followed Daniels to Oakleaf Elementary School across the street after he motioned for her to follow him, she said.

It was while she was following Daniels to the school that Smith noticed a black truck following behind her with a cell phone pressed against the window. The person in the vehicle behind her was Daniels’ wife, she said.

Smith told the state attorney that as soon as she parked in the school, Daniels’ wife turned the truck in a way that blocked Smith, and her 7-year-old daughter, into an alley with no way out.

Soon after, two Clay County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars pulled in with lights and sirens. Clay County Sgt. Chris Ruby went to speak with Daniels, who was still in his vehicle, while Deputy Sheriff Joseph Glenn waited behind Smith’s Jeep, she said.

It was during this conversation with Ruby that Smith heard Daniels make the comment about her arrest, she said. She was placed in handcuffs and seated in the back of Glenn’s patrol vehicle. Smith asked deputies if she could call someone to get her vehicle and to care for her daughter, who was still in the back seat of Smith’s Jeep, she said.

Smith called her father to come get her vehicle and her cousin to take care of her child, she said.

Ruby testified that he was alerted by dispatchers through the deputies’ radio system about an incident involving a suspicious person and Sheriff Daniels, near Oakleaf Elementary School.

Upon arriving on the scene, he heard Daniels through the radio say “stop the Jeep.” He took her license and registration and then proceeded to speak to Daniels about what was going on, he said.

“I had never seen him [Daniels] like that before,” Ruby said. “Normally he is a very proud person, but this time his head was down and he kept looking down.”

Daniels told Ruby about his affair with Smith and that it had lasted for approximately six years, Ruby said. Daniels claimed he tried to get an injunction, or restraining order, earlier in the day against Smith but it was denied.

He told Ruby that she was stalking him and had, allegedly, been caught sitting outside of his home on various occasions after Daniels told his wife about the affair and his relationship with Smith ended.

While Ruby was talking to Daniels, former Deputy Sheriff Glenn was monitoring Smith who remained calm, Glenn and Ruby both testified. Both men also noted that Daniels’ wife had to be asked several times to stop screaming obscenities at Smith.

Ruby testified that Daniels told him he was fearful for his well-being and advised that Smith be arrested. This was not a demand, Ruby added; he made the arrest because he viewed Daniels as a victim at the time, not as the sheriff.

“I had to treat him like any other victim,” Ruby said. “The sheriff did not give me advice on the charges.”

Smith was arrested for trespassing on school property and stalking which was later upgraded to aggravated stalking due to her having a firearm in her glove compartment.

Smith worked cooperatively with Glenn and Ruby during the incident, they both said. She provided a six-page written statement about her relationship with Daniels and he provided a written statement which his wife reviewed before he turned it in, Ruby said.

Former deputy sheriff Glenn was responsible for transporting Smith to the Clay County Jail, but she was never booked, he said. This is because Ruby met back up with Glenn and Smith at the jail after receiving Daniels’ written statement. Ruby and Smith spoke for approximately two hours, he said, and during the conversation, Smith provided more information that led him to believe this incident would be better handled by a different agency, he said.

“She is a very sweet woman and she was very nice,” Ruby said. “My opinion on the validity of the arrest changed because she told me things that made me question Daniels’ statements.”

Following Smith’s testimony, Florida Department of Law Enforcement employees Herbert Taylor and Joseph Prato testified to the process of extracting data from cell phones. Prato testified that there were no phone calls or text messages on the phone Daniels turned in for the investigation which is “highly unusual.”

The defense asked Prato if this means that Daniels deleted evidence, to which he said he has no knowledge. He was simply instructed to pull data from the device and minimal data showed.

Former Jacksonville Sheriff Michael Williams was called to the stand and testified that on the night of May 6, Daniels called him twice regarding Smith and asked the sheriff if she could be put in Duval County Jail because “it won’t look too good if she goes to my jail,” Williams said of Daniels.

Besides the felony charges related to evidence tampering or destruction, Daniels also faces five misdemeanor charges of knowingly giving false information to a law enforcement officer.

The court adjourned at 4:40 p.m. and will resume Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.

The state plans to call nine more witnesses to the stand Wednesday.

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Accredited journalist with experience covering a wide range of stories consisting of breaking news, city and county government, crime and courts, feature stories and local interest. Facebook Bulletin writer, reporter; The Learning Curve. Twitter: @zoeyfields0

Jacksonville, FL

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