CHILTON COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - A former law enforcement officer who swore to uphold the law has interrupted his trial on felony ethics violations and fraudulent use of a credit card in order to plead guilty, the Alabama attorney general's office confirmed Thursday.
Former Clanton Police Chief Brian Allan Stilwell pleaded guilty Thursday, Attorney General Steve Marshall said. His trial started Monday but was halted with his decision to enter a plea.
During the trial, prosecutors showed evidence that the former police chief took money from the local Chilton County chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police by using the organization's bank debit card without proper authorization and using the funds for his personal gain. The money was for the FOP's Operation Santa Claus program to provide presents for needy children.
The AG's office also showed evidence at trial of Stillwell using his position as police chief to illegally take money from the police department that had been condemned and forfeited to the city for law enforcement purposes.
The crimes took place over a five year period between 2010 and 2015 during which time Stilwell was both the police chief and treasurer of the Chilton County FOP.
The FOP released a statement following Stilwell's guilty plea. It reads, in part:
He'd been with the Clanton Police Department since 2008 and was a 1997 graduate of the Montgomery Police Academy.
A sentencing date has been set for Aug. 28 at which time Stilwell faces between two and 20 years in prison for the ethics conviction and between one and 10 years for fraudulent use of a credit card.
"When a police chief breaks the law it is a terrible betrayal that cuts deeply into the trust of the citizens he was sworn to protect and of his fellow law enforcement officers," Marshall said. "In this case, the law enforcement community of Clanton and Chilton County came together and stood shoulder to shoulder with us to bring justice to their people, to restore their faith, and to hold Brian Stilwell to account for his crimes."