- Hot Spring County Sheriff Scott Finkbeiner of southwest Arkansas has been ordered by a federal judge to relinquish all law enforcement duties.
- The charges against Finkbeiner involve allegations that he attempted to impede a federal investigation into a drug dealer.
- Finkbeiner, maintaining his innocence, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A federal judge has ordered an indicted southwest Arkansas sheriff to give up all his law enforcement duties and stay away from the sheriff’s office.
The order by U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant says Hot Spring County Sheriff Scott Finkbeiner’s only remaining authority is over payroll. Finkbeiner was indicted Nov. 15 on charges of obstruction of justice and concealing a crime, after first being arrested on Nov. 2.
The indictment and an earlier sworn statement by an FBI agent say Finkbeiner tried to get federal agents to stop investigating a drug dealer who had provided the sheriff with methamphetamine.
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Finkbeiner has pleaded not guilty. In a Nov. 6 post of the sheriff’s office Facebook page, he denied wrongdoing.
“I do want to emphatically say I DID NOT OBSTRUCT JUSTICE in any way!” he wrote. “In fact it is the contrary. Thank you for the huge outpouring of support!! It’s my hope that you can all come to the trial and see the truth!”
By agreeing to give up his duties as sheriff, Finkbeiner appears to have avoided a renewed push by federal prosecutors to jail him before trial. He’s currently free on $5,000 bail.
The order was earlier reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
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Prosecutors said in an earlier court filing that Finkbeiner had said he would fire or lay off potential witnesses who worked for the sheriff’s department, asked two elected constables to investigate the case for him in what could be interpreted as witness intimidation, and claimed he would release a Hot Spring County jail inmate if the inmate gave Finkbeiner information about his own case.
They also say Finkbeiner complained to Malvern police officers and state prosecutors that the FBI was interfering in his own investigation, threatening to arrest FBI agents.
Federal agents say audio recordings by a confidential informant show Finkbeiner arriving at a house in Perla after 2 a.m. on May 21, smoking meth and repeatedly asking the informant for sex.
After Finkbeiner found a surveillance camera outside the house, FBI agents say, he called them Aug. 21 to say that the alleged drug dealer agents were investigating was an informant for the sheriff on a theft of government funds investigation and a drug arrest.
“I assure you, he ain’t moving a bunch of drug weight,” Finkbeiner said in the conversation, according to an Oct. 30 sworn statement by FBI Special Agent Brian Ambrose.
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