It’s been nearly two weeks since former Mobile County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Parsons’ termination and almost a month since he was caught buying illegal drugs in a sting set up by fellow law enforcement officers.
However, two arrest warrants charging Parsons with possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of prescription drugs prepared by Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich’s office have still not been executed by MCSO.
The recent development was brought to light after Rich denied a request from Sheriff Sam Cochran to put Parson’s case before a grand jury.
“The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office asked us to take this case straight to the grand jury. We disagreed that it was necessary,” Rich told Lagniappe Tuesday morning. “There’s no legitimate reason to hold these cases up and present them to a grand jury.”
The request to do so came in a letter from Cochran on March 22, but in her response, Rich suggested that would be a deviation from the “normal screening process.”In his letter, Cochran said his investigators were “ready to assist in [Parsons’] prosecution,” but there have been accusations of preferential treatment because of Parson’s former position with MCSO and because of his father, Lonnie Parsons is the chief of support services for the department.
According to the MCSO website, Lonnie Parsons is responsible for overseeing civil processes including the service of “subpoenas, arrest warrants and evictions.” However, MCSO spokeswoman Lori Myles said it isn’t rare to request that a case handled through the grand jury process.
Speaking with Lagniappe, Myles said there were concerns that if Parsons was arrested and his case went straight to Mobile County Circuit Court, the identity of the informants who handled his internal investigation could be compromised. She also said some of the drugs MCSO seized haven’t been returned from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.
“One of the reasons we did an internal investigation is because we wanted to make sure no one else in this office was involved or was covering for him,” Myles said. “The sheriff has said he’s not going to arrest someone in treatment. He’s going to be arrested and face charges. That’s a given, but we’re not going to go and snatch him out of treatment.”
Myles said Cochran’s decision didn’t have anything to do with Parsons or his family’s’ ties to the department but instead was based on conversations he’d had with “people in the treatment community” including Drug Education Council’s Executive Director Virginia Guy.
Myles also said that Rich’s office has the authority to sign the warrants “if she wants to be so emphatic” about the case. However, as of March 28, Parsons has not been officially charged.
According to MCSO, Parsons had been employed with the department since 2011, working for two years as a corrections officer in the Mobile County Metro Jail before becoming a deputy in 2014. However, the incident that led to his termination is not his first involving illegal drugs.
Parsons received an 80-hour suspension in October 2016 for misplacing evidence that he initially claimed to have lost. According to Myles, the evidence in question was crystal meth, which Parsons later produced before telling deputies he’d “found it in his car.”
“A witness that was with him attested that it looked like the crystal meth that was taken from a prisoner, and it was also sent to the ADFS to prove it was the same substance,” Myles said. “When that occurred, we really began paying attention and trying to set something up.”
What they set up was the March 6 sting operation that ultimately led to Parsons’ termination after the department “received information” that suggested Parsons might be purchasing drugs.
After an internal investigation involving members of the MCSO and officers from the Saraland Police Department, Parsons was caught in the act on March 6. However, instead of being arrested, he was taken to his home.
When his equipment and his service vehicle were taken from him, deputies found marijuana and another ”controlled substance” in his patrol car. Though Parsons was off duty at the time, Myles said he had “bought the drugs while in his patrol car.”
Myles said the department worked to keep the knowledge of the internal investigation into Parsons limited to undercover narcotics officers.
That was done partially to ensure no other officers were involved but also because of his father’s employment with MCSO. When asked, Myles said Lonnie Parsons was informed only after his son had been caught, adding that he was “very surprised” by the news.