Lawsuit claims former sheriff abused power

ASHE COUNTY, N.C. — Former jail workers are taking a local sheriff's office to federal court.

The employees said they were urged to lie on reports and wrongfully accused of crimes if they refused.

Eyewitness News reporter Dave Faherty uncovered the 60-page lawsuit that lays out claims of abuse of power.

[Ashe County sheriff resigns, gets $71K; DA drops felony charges]

The lawsuit outlines stunning allegations against former Ashe County Sheriff Terry Buchanan and several of his top lieutenants.

One employee was arrested after she refused to sign a statement against another jail employee who reported illegal contraband being brought into the jail, the lawsuit claims.

Buchanan, who was sheriff at the time, "adopted a scorch-earth policy, if anyone questioned his authority," according to the lawsuit.

Many of the Jefferson County residents said Thursday they knew there were problems after an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation led to indictments against the former sheriff for three felony counts of obstruction of justice and three misdemeanor counts of willfully failing to discharge duties.

The lawsuit claims there were false arrests, malicious prosecution and emotional distress against three jail employees.

Eight months after the jailer was arrested, the charges were dismissed because of "insufficient evidence." Around the same time, Buchanan resigned from office after reaching a settlement deal in which prosecutors where charges against him were dropped.

Buchanan walked away with the remainder of his salary, in excess of $70,000.

The current sheriff, who was not working at the Sheriff’s Office under Buchanan, didn't want to comment about the pending lawsuit.

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