Hundreds of text messages between former Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels and his ex-mistress, Cierra Smith, were submitted as evidence Wednesday in the third day of Daniels’ trial.
Daniels was arrested in Aug. 2020 and is accused of lying to investigators and destroying evidence to cover up the six-year affair he had with Smith, who was a corrections officer at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office while Daniels was director of the Duval County jail. The affair began while the two were employed at the same agency and continued well into Daniels’ time as Clay County Sheriff.
Keith Riddick, the lead investigator on the case from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, was asked by prosecutors to read aloud the text messages between Smith and Daniels. Smith was the state’s first witness and she testified for the prosecution on Tuesday.
Riddick is a veteran of law enforcement, serving 43 years in various positions throughout the state of Florida. He now works in the internal affairs department, specifically dealing with allegations against public officials, he told the court.
Riddick carried with him to the witness stand a large binder of Daniels’ case notes. While on the stand, state attorneys asked Riddick to read aloud the text messages he discovered through searches of both Daniels’ and Smith’s cell phones.
Prosecutors used Riddick’s testimony to try and prove Daniels had attempted to cover up the timeline of his affair, seemingly deleting text messages, phone calls and even telling Smith he was going to “change his timeline,” the data from his cell phone revealed.
Smith was arrested May 6, 2019, on the orders of Sheriff Daniels, for trespassing on school property and aggravated stalking. Daniels tried claiming their relationship was well over at this point in time. Prosecutors contend his text messages tell a different story.
Riddick read aloud the contents of messages leading up to the May 6 arrest date.
April 26, 2019:
Daniels to Smith, “The only reason I want to be the one to break the news is to stop it from going viral…It’s going to sting me, but I have to man up.”
Riddick explained this text was in reference to the evidence of the internal affairs investigation going public which, at the time, Daniels’ wife was still unaware of the affair, he said.
Later that evening, Smith asked Daniels what his email address was and he responded, giving her a legitimate address. Email conversations were not read aloud in court.
April 27, 2019:
Smith to Daniels, “I know between me and you coming to an end, you won’t be able to communicate with me because you will be saving your marriage…you will have everything and I have lost everything.”
Daniels replied, “remember I said I will help you.”
April 28, 2019:
Daniels to Smith, “Good morning Moch.”
Riddick explained to the court that “Moch” was used as a term of endearment between Daniels and Smith throughout the course of their relationship.
Smith replied, “Good morning Moch, I need to talk to you at some point today if you have time.”
She later alerted Daniels she was at home, He responded with intimate messages and by asking if that was an invitation to come over. He then sent a message at 11:28 a.m. that read “omw,” an acronym meaning “on my way.”
Later that afternoon, messages were exchanged regarding Smith’s well-being. She told Daniels she was crying and throwing up. Daniels responded with care, suggesting she get out of the house before she sinks into a depression, Riddick said. Daniels followed up with another message.
“On another note, I am going to up my timeline…the media has requested your case,” he texted Smith.
Then, after more messages were exchanged, Daniels texted Smith that evening saying he was about to tell his wife of the affair.
The same night he sent a text claiming his wife had stormed out of the house and he would have to talk to Smith tomorrow, Riddick said. Attorneys asked Riddick if at any point in the conversation Daniels had verbalized a breakup or disinterest in Smith. He said no.
April 29, 2019:
Smith to Daniels, “Please text me at least to know you are okay so that I don’t worry.”
Daniels replied, “it’s not good.”
Riddick explained the other messages revealed Daniels was referencing the situation between Daniels and his wife.
Daniels called Smith later that day and again on April 30, as well as sending more messages, none of which ended their relationship, Riddick said.
May 1, 2019:
Daniels leaves a voicemail on Smith’s phone. Due to the data pull, voicemails cannot be heard or transcribed, only documented, Riddick explained.
May 3, 2019, three days before Smith’s arrest:
A text was sent from Daniels’ phone by his wife to Smith.
“Northside c*** of the day, don’t call this number again. This is my phone now. He don’t want your crazy a** you low-budget h**. We will be seeing you soon.”
Smith replied, “you just worry about standing by your husband when News4Jax gets this story. Goodnight grandma.”
A photo of Daniels and Smith was sent along with her reply.
Riddick remained on the stand as state attorneys asked him to then explain different money transactions between Daniels and Smith. Riddick explained that a one-time exchange of money compared to several exchanges helps investigators paint a better picture of a relationship between two people.
Daniels’ bank statements showed hundreds of transactions between him and Smith. Most notably, a transfer of money from Daniels to Smith for $4,300 for her breast augmentation surgery, Riddick said.
Then a recording of Daniels’ interview with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was played for the jury. Daniels describes the incident where Smith was following him that led to him accusing his ex-mistress of stalking.
“A million things are going through my head. And I’m like how is this ending? I start thinking Clay County sheriff has to kill a young female in her vehicle (inaudible). It’s not a good look for myself or the county. Clay County sheriff is killed by an (inaudible). It’s not a good look either,” he can be heard saying.
In the audio, investigators asked Daniels about the thousands of dollars he gave to Smith over the years, including the plastic surgery bill. Daniels said he was able to get away with it because he managed the family’s finances and they had extra money.
“You say you give a person, give them a little bit of rope, they’ll turn themselves into a cowboy, and that’s just what I did,” Daniels said.
Earlier in the day, state attorneys called on an IT worker and supervisor within the Clay County Sheriff’s Office regarding Daniels’ request for a new work cell phone on June 4, 2019.
Daniels allegedly told the IT worker “this phone has stuff that doesn’t need to see the light.”
He was given a new phone that same day, however, instead of following standard procedures to wipe the phone of its contents, the Clay County IT department kept the phone locked in a safe due to the announcement of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s investigation into Daniels.
“My assumption is some sort of communication on the device with the girlfriend that he didn’t want the wife to find out or other people to find out, embarrassing in some way,” IT worker Dominic Antoniello testified.
Shortly thereafter, Antoniello’s supervisor, Chief Wayne McKinney, was brought to the stand. He said he was uncomfortable with Daniels’ order to fully get rid of the device and he was the one who had the phone placed in a safe in case it became evidence in the investigation.
Court begins at 8:45 a.m.Thursday. The defense has yet to call their witnesses to the stand. A verdict could come as early as Friday.