County’s Top Law Enforcement Officer Resigns Under Court Order
MANSFIELD, Ohio (AP) _ A sheriff surrendered his badge to county commissioners and resigned Monday, 45 minutes before a court-ordered deadline to quit or go to prison.
Richard Petty’s 6 1/2 -year tenure as Richland County’s top law enforcement officer ended when his wife, Dorothy, handed his letter of resignation to deputy clerk Naomi Carter Hoffman.
Later Monday, the three commissioners formally accepted the resignation. The county’s four Common Pleas judges appointed Petty’s chief deputy, Maj. Howard Dale Shetler as interim sheriff Friday.
Petty, 50, was sentenced Friday to concurrent jail terms of two years for obstruction of justice and and one year for tampering with evidence in an arson case. But visiting Summit County Common Pleas Judge John Reece told Petty that he would reduce the sentence to two years’ probation if he resigned by 9 a.m. Monday.
Petty was indicted March 6 on three counts of obstructing justice and three counts of tampering with evidence, stemming from a voluntary statement Petty obtained in October 1984 from Debra Bush, who pleaded guilty to a charge of arson.
He was accused of withholding for more than two years the confession of Ms. Bush, daughter of his campaign manager, Louise Bush.
Petty pleaded innocent to all charges but on July 7 was convicted of four counts and acquitted of two others.
Petty’s lawyer, Gary Schweickart, said Petty’s resignation would have no effect on his intention to appeal his conviction.
But Schwieckart said Petty had no intention of fighting the order that he step down. ″For a 30-year lawman to go into prison is virtually a death sentence,″ he said.
County Commissioner Terry Wolf said Monday that the commissioners had a good working relationship with Petty.
″Personally, I’m saddened by the whole thing,″ Wolf said. ″We had an extremely cooperative, professional relationship.″
Telephone calls by The Associated Press to Petty’s residence Monday were not answered.
The central committee of the Richland County Democratic Party will meet before Aug. 18 to name Petty’s replacement.