Sheriff Bruce Pennington at his press conference Monday. (Photo: Steve Payne, THV 11)
BENTON, Ark. (KTHV) - Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington pleaded guilty to one count of resisting arrest and one count of public intoxication in a court hearing Monday afternoon regarding an arrest that happened in late June.
"I freely and voluntarily admit to the offensive conduct I engaged in that evening," admitted Pennington after his hearing. "I have tarnished my public image and well as that of the office which the voters of Saline County have elected to me to three terms. I have embarrassed my family and friends I am sincerely sorry for those offenses."
Resisting arrest carries a $2,500 fine, $145 in court costs, and one year of unsupervised probation while public intoxication carried a $500 fine in addition to $145 in court costs.
The hearing, which lasted about five minutes, took place in the Saline County District Court with Judge Alice Liddell presiding over it.
Last week, prosecutor Cody Hiland amended the charges against Pennington, which included increasing a previously given "refusal to submit" charge to "resisting arrest." The reasoning for this change is that Pennington allegedly took a swing at a deputy during the incident at Denton's Trotline on June 30. The new resisting arrest charge is still a misdemeanor.
"It's an embarrassment to law enforcement it's an embarrassment to the citizens of this county," said Hiland. "The office of sheriff is one of public trust the sheriff obviously violated that trust. We work hard to try to earn the respect of our people that we serve and their actions were not served with the actions of the sheriff."
The charges came after officers were dispatched to Denton's for reports of an intoxicated person who may be trying to drive away from the restaurant. When officers arrived, they found Pennington, who admitted to having alcoholic beverages at the restaurant, in his car. Stories differ as to what happened after that. Pennington said days after his arrest that he never intended on driving home and had arranged for a ride, while officers at the scene said the sheriff was combative and insisted on driving home.
"On July the 15th, I held a press conference regarding my arrest. Since that time I have reviewed all reports, supplemental reports and all videos and audio tapes from that night after this review I was totally shocked and embarrassed my behavior," Pennington added. "In the first week of August I entered into an in-patient treatment facility to address my personal issues."
THV 11 took a closer look at the police interrogation video and found Pennington getting pushy with officers at one point. "Move," he told them. An officer responded, saying, "Bruce. Bruce. We're almost done. I need you to sign two pieces of paper and then you are out of here." The sheriff replied: "No, I'm not signing a [expletive] thing."
The sheriff is also heard saying at one point, "So wrong, I'm not standing up." An officer said, "You're not going to argue with me." The sheriff replied, "Yes I am."
The sheriff is also heard asking an officer at one point, "Listen, are you going to cost me my career?"
Saline County Sheriff Pennington arrested for Public Intoxication: http://on.kthv.com/17h9qt4
Arrested sheriff has history of misconduct allegations: http://on.kthv.com/12hF4mN
Saline County Sheriff explains what happened the night he was arrested: http://on.kthv.com/14Jx2VF
New Details: Pennington reportedly fought officers, insisted on driving while drunk: http://on.kthv.com/14y2YiT
Sheriff Bruce Pennington responds to petition to oust him: http://on.kthv.com/17h9AjX