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Embattled Clanton police chief's case bound over to grand jury

Published: Apr. 28, 2015 at 8:40 PM CDT|Updated: May. 28, 2015 at 8:40 PM CDT
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Chief Brian Stilwell (Source: WBRC file photo)
Chief Brian Stilwell (Source: WBRC file photo)

CLANTON, AL (WSFA) - A preliminary hearing was held on Tuesday regarding charges of theft of property and fraud against the embattled Clanton Police Chief.

The court found probable cause on Tuesday that Brian Stilwell, 44, allegedly mishandled funds out of an account belonging to the Chilton County Faternal Order of Police, Smith-Dale Lodge No. 31. The case will now be bound over to a grand jury.

Stilwell was arrested without incident on April 28 by officers with the State Bureau of Investigation's Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), in conjunction with the 19th Circuit District Attorney's Office.

The lodge released the following statement:

"The members of Smith-Dale Lodge #31 would like the community to know that our lodge prides itself on integrity and regrets the unfolding of events that occurred this week. The funds in question were made up of donations from supporters as well as membership dues and fundraisers. Our lodge took the necessary steps to ensure that this incident was properly handled by turning the case over to state law enforcement as soon as it was discovered. We have made all records available to the State Bureau of Investigation and will continue to provide any and all information they request in order that a complete and transparent investigation be conducted into these allegations. We will also be addressing issues as it relates to the handling of funds in the future."

"Finally, our lodge is comprised of city, county and state law enforcement officers from our community. We have strived to serve the community with respect, compassion and integrity with Operation Santa Claus for several years and we wish to continue for many more years. The operation has made a difference for many children in need by providing them with items that they would not have received otherwise. Please continue to support our cause and members as we work to restore the trust of those we serve."

Stilwell, due to his status as a law enforcement officer, was transported out of Clanton jurisdiction for his own safety. He was taken to the Autauga County Jail where booking, mug shot and charges were filed.

The chief faces one count of first degree theft and one count of fraudulent use of a credit card. ALEA investigators say other potential charges will be presented to a grand jury, but details on those are not available because it is an ongoing investigation.

Clanton Mayor Billy Joe Driver says he was out of town at the time of Stilwell's arrest and was informed of the situation by District Attorney Randall Houston's office. Driver placed the chief on administrative leave without pay and promoted Deputy Chief Keith Maddox to the chief position for the time being.

"Everyone is being taken care of," the mayor said of Clanton's citizens, urging them not to worry.

The State Bureau of Investigation is asking anyone who gave a monetary donation to the lodge for Operation Santa Claus during the past four years to speak with them. SBI investigators would also like to speak with any people who were members of the lodge during the past four years. Those with information may call the SBI tip line at 800-392-8011.

Stilwell has been with the Clanton Police Department since 2008 and is a 1997 graduate of the Montgomery Police Academy.

Maddox, who fills in during Stilwell's leave, has been with the Clanton Police Department since 1980.

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