On Feb. 27, former Buncombe County Sheriff’s Lt. John “Johnny” Harrison agreed to a plea deal and confessed to being part of an extortion operation.
Harrison is the first of three deputies who served under former Sheriff Bobby Medford to accept a plea bargain, though several Medford allies have signed such deals in the last few weeks. He could face fines of up to $250,000, and up to 20 years in prison for the charge.
In his confession, Harrison agrees that he conspired to commit extortion and took bribes from illegal video-poker-machine operators to give them false registrations. The statement also asserts that he worked with former Capt. Guy Penland to cover up bribes to Medford. Penland also faces corruption charges, along with reserve Capt. Ronnie “Butch” Davis and Medford himself.
“He received cash on multiple occasions from numerous VPM [Video Poker Machine] owners or operators in connection with their registering the VPMs in Buncombe County,” the confession reads in part. “Some of these cash payments were delivered directly to the defendant by the VPM owners or operator. Some were delivered to him through Guy Penland.”
The plea arrangement is the latest of several reached in recent weeks, including deals with former Hot Dog King owner Demetre Theodossis, and Irving and Kerry Comer, employees of Weaverville businessman Jackie Shepherd, who is charged with running an illegal video poker ring with 41 machines in 10 locations.
In a separate but related matter, Medford recently appealed to the court for a second attorney and a delay in the trial date. Judge Thomas Ellis III denied this motion, asserting that the trial date of March 25, and Medford’s current counsel, provide him with plenty of opportunity to see the evidence against him.
For documents related to the Medford file, including Harrison’s plea deal, go to www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles