A sheriff and two deputies were arrested Thursday after allegedly conspiring to help a friend kidnap his own daughter, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“The fact that we arrested one of our own sent shock waves through the [Missouri Sheriffs Association] conference,” Washington County, Missouri Sheriff Zach Jacobsen told the outlet.
Iron County, Missouri Sheriff Jeff Burkett and a pair of his deputies stand accused of scheming to help Donald Gaston kidnap his own daughter. The quartet are charged with organized, joint criminal activity under a “street gang” statute in addition to other individual charges, NBC News reported.
“These charges are 100% politically motivated,” Burkett’s lawyer, Gabe Crocker, told the Post-Dispatch. “It’s simply another chapter in the long-term effort to remove the outsider sheriff.”
Jacobsen, the sheriff from neighboring Washington County, said someone called his office to report that law enforcement officials in Iron County were allegedly abusing their police powers back in February, according to KSDK.
Jacobsen then asked the Missouri Highway Patrol to conduct the investigation. Washington County’s prosecutor brought the charges, the outlet also explained.
The alleged plot to help Gaston kidnap his own daughter reportedly began over a dispute Gaston had with the child’s mother over a $50 bottle of liquor, according to the Post-Dispatch.
A Jefferson County police officer reportedly located the woman and child, who were “fine,” the Post-Dispatch also reported.
In addition to the street gang activities, charges against the group include misusing 911, making a false report, looking up criminal records under false pretenses, and attempted kidnapping, according to KDSK.
Burkett was released from a hospitalization for “complications from his ongoing battle with lingering Covid-19 symptoms and complications” on March 10, according to a Facebook post from the Iron County Sheriff’s Office. In his mugshot, Burkett is wearing what appears to be an oxygen line leading to his nose.
“They’ve been trying to get rid of him since he won the Republican primary for sheriff in Iron County in 2020,” Crocker told KSDK.
Crocker told the outlet Washington County prosecutors are asking a judge to require Burkett’s removal from office if he is able to post bail.
Jacobsen, the sheriff from neighboring Washington County, reportedly offered to help patrol Iron County while Iron County’s sheriff and two of its deputies are in jail. In the sheriff’s absence, Iron County’s coroner, Tim Harbison, is tasked with managing the short-staffed office.
Burkett, Cozad, Bresnahan, and Gaston are all jailed in lieu of bond. Burkett’s bond was set at $500,000 and bond for the remaining three was set at $400,000, according to NBC News. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday to request reconsideration of the bond amounts.
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