Suspended Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair has dropped out of the race for re-election and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the State Attorney’s Office to drop perjury and official misconduct charges against him.
Under the agreement, which Blair signed on Thursday, he will continue to receive his pension from the state retirement system and the state will not proceed with the charges against him that came from his time as sheriff. Also, the federal government does not presently consider him a person of interest or have any plan to file criminal charges against him.
Blair’s letter to Wesley Wilcox, supervisor of elections, reads: “Having duly qualified for election for the office of Sheriff of Marion County, in the Republican Primary and General Elections of 2016, I hereby immediately and irrevocably withdraw my candidacy for the office of Sheriff of Marion County.”
Blair also sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott’s office, which said: “Having been suspended from office on May 20, 2016, I hereby immediately and irrevocably resign from the office of Sheriff of Marion County.”
Blair, who had been sheriff since he took the oath of office in January 2013, had to leave office on May 20 after he was arrested and charged with two counts of perjury and one count of official misconduct. If convicted of the charges, he faced five years for each charge along with a $5,000 fine for each offense.
Blair’s charges resulted from his account of the 2014 arrest of a man. At least one deputy has admitted beating the suspect following a shootout and after the suspect left his northwest Marion County home. The suspect, who was later convicted of attempted murder, was unarmed and compliant at the time of his arrest; he has a federal civil rights case pending against Blair and several deputies.
Although Blair later swore, on a signed affidavit submitted for that federal case and in testimony in front of a grand jury, that he did not see the suspect face to face after the arrest, a video recorded at the scene shows deputies walking the suspect directly past Blair. A grand jury indicted Blair in May.
The court documents signed Thursday by Blair states that he did not admit or deny “the ultimate facts that gave rise to the charges” and “the agreement is made in my own best interest and enables me to dispose of the charges without risk of conviction and sentence.”