Chris Abril resigns as Polk County Sheriff

Published 6:37 pm Thursday, November 13, 2008

The county board chairman said he planned last night to notify Margaret Johnson, chair of the Polk County Democratic Party, of the resignation.

Hix says, according to state statute, the Democratic Party will nominate someone to replace Abril, who is a Democrat. That nomination will be presented to the county board of commissioners for approval.

Until a permanent replacement is approved, chief deputy Tony Roberson will serve as acting sheriff. Abril&squo;s resignation comes about two years before the end of his term and just a few days before his trial on rape charges is scheduled to resume. The case is scheduled to begin Monday morning in Waynesville.

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Abril, who is facing five counts of statutory rape and one count of sexual offense on a child, has maintained his innocence since his arrest on Aug. 28, 2006.&bsp; He was indicted on the charges, which stem from incidents about 20 years ago, shortly after he filed to run for sheriff and subsequently won the office against then incumbent sheriff David Satterfield. Abril has said from the start that the charges were politically motivated because he was running for sheriff. But the mother of one of the alleged victims&squo;&bsp; told reporters that she called the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation when she found out Abril was running for the office and asked them to look into the case again.

One of the alleged victims had gone to authorities around 1990 to report the alleged incidents previously, but the district attorney then said there wasn&squo;t enough evidence to prosecute. The alleged victim later sent a letter to the editor to the Bulletin restating the alleged crimes.

The SBI conducted a five-month investigation prior to Abril&squo;s indictments and the case was then turned over to the state attorney general&squo;s office rather than the district attorney. The indictments include the name of the alleged victim who went to authorites previously, along with another alleged victim.

A grand jury met in August, 2006 and handed down true bills of indictments with the two victims alleging that the acts occurred between July, 1987 and October, 1989. The girls were ages 10 and 11 at the time of the alleged sexual encounters.The trial initially began in Polk County Superior Court in August, but didn&39;t get through jury selection before the state prosecutor&39;s office requested a change of venue and a mistrial. Senior Deputy Attorney General Jim Coman accused Abril of jury tampering after evidence was submitted to the court that Abril had talked by phone with a prospective juror.Judge Zoro Guice Jr. agreed to move the case. It was initially moved to Buncombe County, but then later switched to Haywood County. The trial was set to resume on November 6, but the case was continued until November 17. Reasons for the delay have not been available.&bsp; It&39;s unclear if Abril and his attorney Stephen Lindsay have discussed a plea agreement with the prosecutor&39;s office.If Abril is found by a jury to be guilty, he could face life in prison.