Kentucky sheriff guilty of misconduct, menacing, but gets probation. He can keep office

A Kentucky sheriff pleaded guilty this week to two charges of official misconduct and two counts of menacing.

The plea by Trigg County Sheriff Aaron Acree included a sentence of one year in jail conditionally discharged for two years, meaning he will be on probation for that period.

Acree can stay in office under the convictions because the charges were not felonies, according to Marshall County Attorney Jason Darnall, who served as special prosecutor in the case.

Kentucky State Police began investigating Acree in the spring of 2022 after receiving allegations of misconduct.

A grand jury ultimately indicted him.

One official misconduct charge involved Acree requesting a free room at the state park lodge at Lake Barkley. He told staffers he needed the room to observe a drug transaction when it was really to meet a woman for sex, according to the court record.

The other official misconduct charge and the menacing charges related to an alleged assault on a woman after she was arrested.

Acree went home for lunch one day in January 2022 and found Crystal Dawn Smith in his house, according to a federal lawsuit Smith later filed against Acree.

She was arrested on charges of burglary, possession of stolen property and possession of heroin.

The federal lawsuit said Smith had been abusing pain pills and heroin after the accidental gun death of her son some months before, and didn’t know whose house she had entered.

Smith alleged in her lawsuit that at Acree’s direction, the county jailer took Smith to the sheriff’s office before taking her to jail in neighboring Christian County.

At his office, Acree allegedly slammed Smith against a wall while she had restraints on her hands and legs, threw her to the floor and screamed that he would “f-----g kill her if he ever saw her again,” according to a citation and the federal lawsuit.

Acree denied wrongdoing in a response to the lawsuit, but pleaded guilty to misconduct and menacing in connection with the incident.

The plea agreement said Smith did not seek treatment for injuries while she was an inmate and that there were no photos of bruising or other injuries.

Smith pleaded guilty to burglary for entering Acree’s home, according to the plea document.

The plea document Acree signed notes that the court and prosecutor don’t have authority to remove him from office based on the misdemeanor charges.

The governor could initiate a removal action or the legislature could impeach Acree, Darnall said.

Acree’s attorney, Ken Haggard, said authorities wanted Acree to resign, but he and Haggard “absolutely refused” and the prosecution ultimately dropped the demand.

“Aaron is free to continue in office under the plea and will do so,” Haggard said.