LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- A grand jury has indicted former Bullitt County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy John Cottrell for stealing drugs, abusing public trust and tampering with evidence.
The Bullitt County grand jury handed up three felony charges against the former second-in-command of the Bullitt County Sheriff's Office Wednesday afternoon: theft of a legend drug, abuse of public trust less than $10,000 and tampering with physical evidence. It also handed up two misdemeanor charges of misapplication of entrusted property and official misconduct.
The indictment says on or before Oct. 6, 2016, Cottrell took drugs belonging to the evidence room. Court records say those drugs include marijuana, hydrocodone and other pills. Sources close to the investigation tell WDRB after Cottrell was fired, investigators found marijuana and pills in his office that were supposed to be evidence in cases, but some of the drugs were missing.
The sheriff's office and Cottrell's attorney declined to comment to WDRB.
It's not the first time felony charges have been brought against Cottrell. A previous indictment alleged that in June 2014 and March 2015, Cottrell was in possession of fake Bullitt County Sheriff's Office identification badges. Investigators say he forged a deputy identification badge for his girlfriend who allegedly worked off-duty at several places using the badge, according to a synopsis WDRB obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act. The businesses were led to believe the woman was a deputy, according to records. The woman was never hired by the department. She has not been charged.
In that case, Cottrell was charged with two counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument. A Bullitt County Circuit Court judge dismissed the charges in August, but Cottrell is expected to be back in court Thursday as a judge decides whether to reinstate those charges. He previously told WDRB that the allegations were, "a joke. They are trying to muddy the waters to what the actual problem is and that's them."
Cottrell was fired from the Bullitt County Sheriff's Office in Oct. 2016 for being "absent without leave," according to a termination letter written by former Sheriff David Greenwell. The termination letter does not specify how much time Cottrell missed. It alleges Cottrell violated the department's conduct standards -- "absence from duty." He had been with the sheriff's department since January 2011. Before that, he worked for the Pioneer Village Police Department, according to LinkedIn.
Cottrell filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming he was fired after revealing that Greenwell was involved in criminal activity. In the suit, Cottrell claims he was on medical leave and wrongfully terminated by Greenwell as retaliation for taking part in a criminal investigation against the sheriff. Cottrell claims he and two subordinates in the department investigated Greenwell and "revealed that the Sheriff is involved in serious criminal activity."
Greenwell was indicted in federal court in May on five charges, including obstructing an investigation and aiding a special deputy in his department who sought to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. Among other charges, he is accused of "arranging a secret meeting" and informing a special deputy identified as "C.M." that he was the subject of a narcotics investigation and giving him the names of a potential witnesses. Greenwell also allegedly told C.M that his business was under surveillance and provided information that investigators had obtained under wire tapping, according to the indictment. Greenwell has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
While "C.M." is not identified, a former Bullitt County Sheriff's special deputy named Chris Mattingly pleaded guilty last year to being part of a drug cell in Kentucky that had ties to Mexico and distributed drugs and large sums of cash across the country.
Greenwell resigned from the department on Feb. 28 amid allegations of misconduct, ending his letter or retirement with, "P.S. Jesus knows!"
Over the last two years, Cottrell said he reported alleged mismanagement, waste, fraud, abuse of authority and illegal activity by Greenwell, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit did not provide details of the alleged criminal activity.
On Wednesday afternoon, Garry Adams, Cottrell's attorney, issued a statement, saying that, "It's just another part of the saga. We are both very disappointed, and just like everything else, we aim to prove his innocence."
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