Pubdate: Tue, 27 Jan 2009
Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
Copyright: 2009 Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.
Author: Dan Galindo
Note: Letters from newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


He Says He Stole, Lied About Cancer

A former Yadkin County sheriff's deputy will spend at least 34 months
in prison after he pleaded guilty yesterday to charges that he
embezzled money from the agency and concocted a lie that led people to
raise money for his cancer treatments.

Darrell Thornton admitted in Yadkin Superior Court that he changed a
doctor's colonoscopy report to make fellow employees think he had
cancer. Thornton pleaded guilty to 10 counts of embezzlement, two
counts of attempting to traffic in opium and OxyContin, one count of
obtaining property by false pretenses and common-law forgery. The
pleas were part of a deal with prosecutor Fred Bauer in which eight
counts of larceny by an employee were dropped and all the guilty pleas
were merged into four charges for sentencing.

Judge Edwin G. Wilson Jr. gave Thornton consecutive sentences that add
up to a minimum of 34 months in prison and a maximum of 44 months.
Thornton was arrested Nov. 6 after an investigation by the State
Bureau of Investigation. He was a deputy for about five years and was
the sheriff's office's narcotics investigator.

Thornton was accused of taking money from the sheriff's office fund
used to buy drugs during undercover investigations and from money
seized during investigations.

The total was $6,044, including $1,800 raised during a hot-dog
fundraiser that was organized by a Yadkin 911 dispatcher and cancer
survivor, who reached out to Thornton.

Thornton's attorney, Chris Beechler, said that Thornton did have some
medical problems and during treatment became addicted to OxyContin.
After he told fellow employees he had tests done to see if he had
cancer, the employees reached out to help, Beechler said.

Thornton changed the colonoscopy report because the sheriff's office
asked to see medical records, Beechler said. Thornton had missed work
for his medical problems and the sheriff's office had become
suspicious after money started to be missing.

"He made no excuses (yesterday), just apologized to the sheriff's
office and all the people he hurt," Beechler said. "He was sorry for
the black eye any law-enforcement agency incurs when an officer abuses
the trust of the public."
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