A grand jury indicted Jonathan Newton on charges of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from three Sheriff's Office accounts.
Investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer questioned Newton on his way into the jail. She asked, "Did you take money from the sheriff's office at all?"
"No, no I did not," replied Newton.
District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson told Fleischer the grand jurors were incensed when they heard about the case. She said Newton devised a scheme to overpay a vendor with sheriff's office money, then get refunded the difference into his own bank account.
"We have witnesses; we have bank records; we have invoices. We've been able to have a paper trail," said Lawson.
Newton is facing 12 counts, including theft by taking, forgery and false statements. He's accused of pocketing roughly $30,000 from three sheriff's office accounts, when former Sheriff Victor Hill was in office.
Lawson said Newton was in charge of creating the Sheriff's Star newsletter. He's accused of inflating invoices from the printing company, then having that company write him checks for the difference.
Fleischer asked Newton, "Did you get any kickbacks on those newsletters?"
He replied, "No comment."
The grand jury also indicted Newton on charges of doing work for Hill's campaign and writing Hill's autobiography while on the county clock. In 2008, Newton's resignation letter blamed that work on Hill. Prosecutors said that's no excuse.
"You are not immune from prosecution just because your boss tells you to go do something illegal," said Lawson.
Fleischer asked Newton, "Was Victor Hill involved in this in any way?"
Newton replied, "No comment."
His new boss, at the Palmetto Police Department, had him turn in his gun, badge and uniform upon arrest, which is why he was booked into the jail wearing an undershirt. Newton was a civilian employee when he worked at the Sheriff's Office, but he had since become a sworn officer. Lawson said his arrest should send a message.
"Law enforcement and public servants and elected officials all need to be held to a higher standard, even than just regular citizens because they've sworn an oath to uphold the law," she said.
The Palmetto police chief placed Newton on administrative leave.