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 cop a plea, though several Medford allies have signed such deals in the last few weeks.
In his confession, Harrison agrees that he conspired to commit extortion and taking 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 is also charged with corruption.
The plea deal is the latest of several reached in recent weeks, including a deal with former Hot Dog King-owner Demetre Theodossis and others with Irving and Kerry Comer, employees of Weaverville businessman Jackie Shepherd, who’s 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.
—David Forbes, staff writer