IRON COUNTY, Mo. — One doesn’t need to look further than the conditions of bond release prosecutors are seeking against Iron County Sheriff Jeff Burkett to find out what’s really behind his arrest, according to his attorney.
Should Burkett post bail, Washington County prosecutors are asking a judge to require him to be removed from office, according to Burkett’s attorney, Gabe Crocker.
“They’ve been trying to get rid of him since he won the Republican primary for sheriff in Iron County in 2020,” Crocker said. “They contested that, claiming various conspiracies and voter fraud."
“Unfortunately, they won that case because my client couldn't afford a multi-thousand-dollar appeal.”
Burkett went on to win special election and the general election.
Now he, and two of his deputies and a citizen are behind bars, accused of conspiring together in a parental kidnapping scheme in February.
The charges include street gang activities, misusing 911, stalking, making a false report, looking up criminal records under false pretense and attempted kidnapping.
“This is a story that has some pretty deep roots and some long tentacles in Iron County,” Crocker said.
The news has shaken the Lead Belt community about 95 miles south of St. Louis. The coroner is now the acting sheriff for the county of about 9,500 people.
But it wasn’t Iron County officials with an axe to grind against Burkett who conducted the investigation or issued the charges.
Neighboring Washington County Sheriff Zach Jacobsen told 5 On Your Side he asked the Missouri Highway Patrol to conduct the investigation after someone called his department accusing the men of abusing their police powers.
The Washington County prosecutor issued the charges.
“I think that this was an opportunity for individuals in positions of power to craft a story, push the case over to someone who would listen, pick and choose facts that support their narrative all in an effort to get him arrested, to have him taken into custody, to smear his name and to smear the department,” Crocker said.
The allegations stem from a domestic disturbance call to the Washington County Sheriff’s Department on Feb. 8 involving Donald Gaston and the mother of his child.
Court documents allege two days later, Burkett and two of his deputies, Matt Cozad and Chase Bresnahan, used their police resources to track down the mother of Gaston’s child and the child and made false reports to 911 operators that the child was in danger.
“Nobody was duct-taped and thrown in a trunk here,” Crocker said. “In fact, they never even made contact with the child.
“So, no one was in any imminent apprehension or danger by these deputies trying to locate and make sure a child was safe.”
Crocker wouldn’t share the evidence he has proving his client was doing nothing more than his job in this case, saying it will come out in court. He said Burkett is still suffering from the effects of long COVID, which is why he is wearing an oxygen canula in his mugshot.
“It's important to do a complete and thorough investigation, not a myopic investigation that's only pointed in one direction with one goal, and that’s to remove my client,” Crocker said.
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