Southern Ill. county ousts convicted sheriff

A southern Illinois county has fired its jailed sheriff, welcoming the news of his marijuana-trafficking and murder-for-hire convictions as the legal justification to finally bounce the law enforcer who steadfastly refused to step down for more than a year.

The five-member Gallatin County Board didn't squander the opportunity Monday night to finally rid itself of Raymond Martin and his $40,000-a-year salary, unanimously agreeing during a special meeting lasting less than 10 minutes that their sheriff since 1990 was a disgrace who needed to go.

The move came four days after Martin, 48, was convicted on 15 felony counts related to trafficking marijuana while on the job and his ensuing foiled quest to have potential witnesses against him killed. Ten of the counts carry possible life terms, and Martin could be fined up to $3.5 million when sentenced in January.

Martin has been jailed since his May 2009 arrest on the marijuana charges. Despite that and subsequent allegations of his behind-bars plotting to kill, Martin clung to his job and still got his salary.

The county had determined Martin was legally entitled to those as en elected official until he either resigned or was convicted.

The county board's chairman said Tuesday he considered it a blessing when the sheriff became a convicted felon.

"The very minute he was convicted, the meeting was called" in Shawneetown, Ill., Randy Drone said. "Every board member was willing to make the motion to remove him from office, and there was very little discussion" before each voted in unison to give Martin the boot.

"We wanted to do this a long, long time ago," Drone said. "It's time to just turn the page on that chapter of the unpleasant part of the county's history and just move forward, trying to put a better face on law enforcement here and get on to tackling other, bigger issues."

The board appointed Shannon Bradley — a former deputy elevated to acting sheriff after his boss' arrest — as Martin's successor, though Bradley faces two opponents in the November election.

"It looks like the victory should to to him anyway," Drone said.

Drone said the county hopes to recoup the 16 months in salary paid out to Martin from the time he was first hauled off from his office by federal agents last year through his conviction. But Martin may have few assets left, with the U.S. government pushing to seize his house, the handguns prosecutors say he carried during his drug-trafficking and more than $100,000 that investigators say they found in a safe in his home.

On Monday, prosecutors and Martin's attorney agreed to privately resolve the forfeiture issue — something the jury was to have taken up that day. Failure to reach an agreement could mean a judge decides the matter.

"It would have been easier to hold his pay (since his arrest) and let him sue us, but legally we couldn't do that," Drone said. "Maybe the government, after they clean him out, will see we can get our part. We're not going to get in a big fight with the them, but we're going to pursue what we feel we're owed for what he put the county through."

Drone believes the county deserves the reimbursement, given that Martin rendered no services while jailed awaiting trial. "He wasn't performing his duties as sheriff, but apparently he wasn't doing that anyway" while profiting on the job by drugs, some of them pilfered from his evidence locker, Drone said.

Martin's wife and son pleaded not guilty to state murder-solicitation charges and await trial.