MARSHALL, Ark. (KTHV) -- It was standing room only in the Searcy County courtroom this afternoon for a hearing to decide the fate of their sheriff.
Kenney Cassell, a deputy sheriff in 1979, pleaded guilty to federal misdemeanor theft for possessing stolen cornish hens. Now, 33 years later, Cassell is holding an elected office and prosecutors say that is a problem.
In downtown Marshall, just north of Clinton, residents like Donald Ragland filled a courtroom Monday in support of their sheriff.
"He's not a bad person. He's a good man, a real good man. There would have been many more in support of him but there's only so much room at a court room and so much parking on this square," said Ragland.
Prosecutors are asking a judge to remove Searcy County Sheriff Kenney Cassell from office.
"He was convicted of theft of interstate commerce so it's a federal crime while he was deputy sheriff so this is not like he was stealing a six pack of beer from the local grocery store when he was 18. It's a very serious crime that does impune the integrity of the office," says Prosecutor for the 20th Judicial District, Cody Hiland.
He says the 1979 conviction involving cornish hens makes the sheriff ineligible to hold office in Arkansas but a judge ruled Monday more facts are needed to make that decision. Cassell, who served time in jail and paid a fine, says the conviction is no secret.
"When I ran for office, we did put that article in the paper and stated what had happened thirty years ago. I was born and raised here. The ones that live here knew it. They knew me and they knew everything that had happened and I was just straight forward and honest. I wanted everybody to know it. I wanted to be upfront so it would never be an issue like this and so be it, it turned out to be an issue," says Cassell.
It's an issue Ragland says doesn't make Cassell any less of a lawman.
"We've all done things that we regretted we done. Unfortunately, some of them got caught. Some of us didn't," said Ragland.
Some residents told THV they believe the motion is a politically motivated attack on Cassell, a claim Prosecutor Hiland denies. In fact, both men are in the Republican party. Hiland says he became aware of the sheriff's past through a law enforcement agency last fall and is simply following the law.
The judge told the court Monday a case like this is a first and one that will require more facts brought to the table before a decision can be made. Both attorneys say they are prepared to go to trial, however a date has not yet been set.