From: Rod Swift
Subject: Here's an interesting news clipping
Date: Wed, 9 Sep 1998 13:48:55 +0800 (GMT+0800)

Associated Press, September 8, 1998
Mitchell County sheriff pleads guilty to felony wiretapping

CHARLOTTE -- Mitchell County Sheriff Vernon Bishop pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to illegal wiretapping, a felony that will end Bishop's law enforcement career in North Carolina.

Bishop admitted that he intentionally intercepted and recorded a local high school football coach's cordless telephone conversation in an attempt to get the coach, who he suspected of being a homosexual, fired.

Bishop, 37, was indicted June 1 by a federal grand jury after an investigation by the SBI and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first count of the indictment charged Bishop with getting a sheriff's deputy to record a conversation Leland Riddle had on a cordless phone at his house in January 1995. The second and third counts charged him with disclosing the contents of the illegal recording to the local school officials.

Bishop pleaded guilty to the first count, and prosecutors agreed to drop the other two. They also agreed to recommend that Bishop be sentenced to home detention or probation. No sentencing date has been set.

As a condition of the plea agreement, Bishop will pay more than $15,300 to Riddle as compensation for lost wages.

"It is especially troubling when those who are charged with protecting the public abuse their positions of power and violate the public trust," said U.S. Attorney Mark Calloway. "Law enforcement has a duty to bring to justice those in law enforcement who knowingly violate the law."

In September 1997, Bishop apologized for the incident, ending a three-day hearing that was held after a local district attorney petitioned Mitchell Superior Court to remove Bishop from office.

District Attorney Tom Rusher dropped the petition in exchange for the apology. Bishop also agreed to forfeit a half-month's salary, or about $1,590 as part of the deal.

A State Bureau of Investigation agent testified during last year's hearing that the sheriff lied to agents by telling them that an anonymous person left a tape of the conversation on his desk.

Bishop acknowledged that he asked deputies to record conversations they might pick up on their police scanners. He said it was part of an investigation into whether Riddle was conspiring to commit sodomy.

"Everything I did at the time was pursuant to an investigation and out of my concern for the kids of Mitchell County," Bishop said at the time.

The sheriff presented copies of the tape to school officials, who in turn confronted Riddle.

Riddle, who had worked at Mitchell County High School since January 1983, resigned in February 1996. He declined comment Tuesday.

Bishop was appointed sheriff in 1992 and won a four-year term in 1994.


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