Police chief pleads guilty to stealing from Christmas fund, department

Police chief pleads guilty to stealing from Christmas fund, department
A file photo of Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell before his 2017 indictment.
Stilwell's booking photo following his 2017 indictment. (Source: Chilton County Jail)
Stilwell's booking photo following his 2017 indictment. (Source: Chilton County Jail)

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:

"The Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police applauds the efforts of Attorney General Marshall in the case of Brian Stilwell of Clanton. Ex-Chief Stilwell misappropriated funds from the [FOP] for his own use...It is a great disappointment to the Alabama State FOP that one of our members would act in such a treacherous way against his law enforcement brothers and sisters...We condemn the actions of Mr. Stilwell and want to assure the public that donations to the [FOP] are used for the betterment of the community..."

Stilwell was originally placed on leave in April 2015 and his contract was not renewed in Oct. 2016. Stilwell found himself indicted in Feb. 2017.

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."

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