It’s difficult to imagine why anyone ever thought it was a good idea to allow county sheriffs to pocket any designated jail food money left over after feeding prisoners. But for generations in Alabama, that’s been the case. After several high-profile instances in which a handful of sheriffs augmented their income with jail food funds to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, Alabama lawmakers brought an end to the practice in this spring’s legislative session.
Most contemporary sheriffs steered clear of that loophole, and we’re pleased to know it hasn’t been an issue in Houston County. Even those who’ve come under scrutiny, such as one official known as Sheriff Corndog after buying a truckload of breaded wieners to feed inmates, didn’t violate the law, although they arguably overstepped the bounds of honorable behavior.
But if anyone thought such a practice wouldn’t invite fraud, they were mistaken. At least one sheriff managed to break the law, along with the trust of constituents, a charitable organization, and his church.
Longtime Pickens County Sheriff David Abston resigned Friday, and agreed to plead guilty to federal fraud charges related to the use of federal funds to purchase provisions to feed prisoners from his church’s charitable food bank, and pocketing unused funds.
Prosecutors are expected to consider the cooperation of the 32-year sheriff when they recommend a sentence. They should also heavily consider his violation of decades of trust between his office and the constituents who relied on him to uphold the law.
Surely one circumstance would outweigh the other.