Former Coosa Co. sheriff guilty on 6 felonies

MONTGOMERY, AL - Attorney General Troy King announced the conviction Monday of former Coosa County Sheriff Ricky Lovell Owens for multiple charges of felony ethics violations. Owens pleaded guilty in Coosa County Circuit Court to six felony ethics law violations.

Sentencing is set for September 27.

Owens entered what is referred to as a blind plea of guilt to six charges that he intentionally used his public position as sheriff for illegal personal gain. A blind plea means that the defendant pleads guilty without any agreement for prosecutors to recommend a particular punishment.

Owens admitted that he transferred funds from the sheriff's office work release fund into his personal "nutrition" fund, where Owens kept funds for feeding prisoners in the jail. Under state law, sheriffs have been allowed to keep for themselves leftover money from the jail food or "nutrition" funds, but not from other sheriff's office funds such as the work release fund.

Owens further admitted that he received $30,250.00 from donations totaling $41,350.00 that were made from official law enforcement funds through the Alabama Sheriff's Association to two charities: "Sistah 2 Sistah" and "Family Advocacy Community and Educational Services."  Both charities fully cooperated with the investigation, said AG King's office.

"It is disturbing and disheartening when someone in law enforcement is accused of wrongdoing, but it is particularly disturbing when a sheriff commits crimes that involve the abuse of his position for personal gain," said Attorney General King.

Owens was sheriff of Coosa County from January 2004 through January 2007. He was defeated for re-election in November 2006.  A subsequent audit by the Alabama Examiners of Public Accounts identified $62,592 in unauthorized expenditures.  The Attorney General's Office presented evidence to a Coosa County grand jury on October 28, 2009, resulting in Owens' indictment.

Owens faces a maximum penalty of two to 20 years imprisonment for each of the six charges, which are class B felonies.

Attorney General King commended Assistant Attorneys General Ben Baxley and Thomas Govan of his Public Corruption and White Collar Crime Division, and Special Agent Steve Pinckard of the Attorney General's Investigations Division. Attorney General King also commended the outstanding work of the auditors with the Examiners of Public Accounts.

INFORMATION SOURCE: Attorney General's office