The ousted Morgan County jail warden is accusing Sheriff Ana Franklin and three deputies of using the sheriff's office to go after their opponents and fill their own pockets.
Leon Bradley, the fired warden, filed a lawsuit today in federal court. He's suing Franklin and her office along with deputies Blake Robinson, Justin "J.P." Powell and Robert "Bones" Wilson.
The lawsuit accuses the sheriff and deputies of engaging in a pattern of racketeering for personal gain, to silence the warden from exposing their illegal activities, to have the warden fired, to protect their private investments and to gain financially.
When contacted by AL.com, Franklin said neither she nor their attorneys had seen the lawsuit. The sheriff declined comment, but she and the deputies in the past have vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Bradley's lawsuit largely focuses on the sheriff's investigation into him and local blogger Glenda Lockhart, who authors the Morgan County Whistleblower. The blog, which has been critical of the sheriff for years, has published multiple posts accusing Franklin and the deputies of wrongdoing or other illegal activity. Lockhart also has sued the sheriff twice.
The sheriff's office launched an investigation in 2016 into the blog and Bradley's communication with Lockhart. A judge recently ruled that Franklin and her deputies acted criminally in the investigation, which led to the arrest of Bradley on a misdemeanor charge. The judge dismissed the charge and said in an order that the sheriff and Robinson "deliberately misled" the court to get search warrants for the homes and business of Bradley and Lockhart.
The judge said Franklin and Robinson withheld the fact they used a paid confidential informant to install a spy software on Lockhart's computer. That confidential informant was Lockhart's grandson Daniel Lockhart. The judge heard multiple days of testimony that the sheriff's office "lied" and threatened Daniel Lockhart so he would go "unlawfully" into his grandmother's business and install a keylogger on her computer.
Bradley's allegations against the sheriff and deputies include:
Violating his First Amendment Rights to free speech
Violating his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search, seizure and false arrest
Violating his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments rights
Conspiracy to deprive his constitutional rights
Conspiracy to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity
Violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act
Invasion of privacy
Conspiracy to violate civil rights
"Public faith in the integrity of the Morgan County Sheriff's Department, and in its ability to seek justice, has been eviscerated by systemic misconduct under Sheriff Ana Franklin," the lawsuit states.
Franklin isn't seeking another term. She will be replaced by Hartselle police Chief Ron Puckett in January.
In the lawsuit Bradley says he had personal knowledge of the sheriff abusing trustee labor by taking inmates on official travel and using inmates to work personal and official events. The lawsuit also says Bradley knew about the sheriff "skimming financial resources from the MCSO to private business and investment interests."
The sheriff was held in contempt of a federal court order last year after it was revealed she invested $150,000 of the jail's inmate food fund in a now-bankrupt crooked used car lot that was co-owned by a convicted federal felon. On the Whistleblower blog, Glenda Lockhart published checks that proved Franklin had used the inmate food money as a loan to the car lot, Priceville Partners. Also published on the blog were documents showing the car lot's co-owner Greg Steenson had donated to Franklin's campaign."Defendants could be charged, indicted, and convicted of multiple, related violations of Alabama and federal law constituting a "pattern," and which violations are each potentially punishable by one or more years in jail," the lawsuit states. Bradley said he spoke with an FBI agent about the sheriff's activities. Franklin and her office have been the subjects of investigations by state and federal law enforcement.
"Defendants received monetary bribes, kickbacks, or other personal benefit from, or facilitated by, Priceville Partners to secure Defendants' cooperation in investigating, terminating and prosecuting any MCSO employees, including Plaintiff, that provided information to Glenda Lockhart or otherwise cooperated with the Whistleblower Blog," the lawsuit adds.
The lawsuit also accuses the sheriff and deputies of money laundering through the Morgan County Sheriff's Rodeo fundraiser event and through the sale of pistol permits.
Bradley alleges retaliation against witnesses, including himself and Glenda and Daniel Lockhart, plus extortion of Daniel.
The 56-page lawsuit doesn't specify how much money Bradley is seeking in damages. He's asking for damages, attorney fees, back pay, reinstatement to his job as warden and more. The lawsuit seeks a jury trial.