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Iron County Sheriff Jeff Burkett left jail for the first time in six weeks on Wednesday, April 26, after posting a $250,000 bail in a case over accusations that he tried to help a friend with parental kidnapping.
Jeff Burkett hired a bondsmen to secure his release after Washington County judge Tony Dorsett eased bail restrictions, allowing Burkett to post something other than cash.
The bail change came on the same day Washington County prosecutor John Jones dropped and refiled the case against Burkett, just before Burkett was scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing that was canceled. Filing the new case resets the clock on the schedule for upcoming hearings.
The prosecutor’s office is trying to consolidate cases against Burkett, Deputies Matthew Cozad and Chase Bresnahan and a fourth man, Donald RIckie Gaston..
Authorities allege the sheriff and deputies used their law enforcement powers in February to try to help tGaston, as he attempted to take his child from the child’s mother.
In the newly filed case against Burkett, he is charged with three felonies and six misdemeanors. Those crimes include participating knowingly in criminal street gang activities, tampering with a victim in a felony prosecution and first-degree stalking.
Gabe Crocker, Burkett’s attorney, has called the case “100% politically motivated” by a group of people trying to take the sheriff down. Crocker declined comment last week. Dorsett had issued a gag order against lawyers in the case, preventing them from talking to reporters.
Burkett had been held in the Jefferson County jail since mid-March.
Burkett’s bond release comes with several conditions. He must be monitored by GPS. He can’t serve as sheriff of Iron County while the case is pending. He can’t serve as a law enforcement officer in any capacity. And he is barred from having a firearm. The bond conditions also prohibit Burkett from contacting or photographing any witness in the case.
The sheriff is charged with, among other crimes, falsely reporting to 911 dispatchers that the child’s mother had kidnapped the girl and that she was in danger.
The sheriff and his two deputies also are accused of using “pings” from the mother’s cellphone to try to track her whereabouts. The “criminal street gang” charge alleges they were organized to commit the crimes.
The mother and child ended up at the home of a Jefferson County sheriff’s official and they were fine.
The case filed last week against Burkett was fueled by an 11-page probable cause statement by an investigator with the Missouri Highway Patrol.
It spells out the lengths the lawmen took in searching for the woman and her child in February.
It includes details that weren’t in the first round of charges that were dropped. For example, investigators got a search warrant to extract a text message conversation between the two deputies, Cozad and Bresnahan. The two deputies complained about the work they were being asked to do on behalf of Gaston, the court document alleges. Bresnahan told Cozad he was sick that Burkett “expects me to just jump up” and help Gaston, and Cozad agreed it wasn’t their job.