Apache County Sheriff Brian Hounshell will be forced to resign his office after admitting he misused public money in a plea agreement with Attorney General Terry Goddard’s office Thursday.
The case is one of eight that Goddard has brought against elected officials since 2003. The Tribune examined Goddard’s prosecutions of those politicians in a two-part series published in July.
Critics have accused Goddard, a Democrat, of prosecuting a disproportionate number of Republican officials for political reasons. Hounshell is a Democrat.
In a plea agreement released Thursday, Hounshell admitted he misused public money when he used a county trailer to haul a truck he bought in Phoenix back to Apache County. He pleaded guilty to a single undesignated Class 6 felony, meaning it can be classified as a misdemeanor if he abides by the terms of the agreement.
Hounshell also agreed to pay up to $15,000 in restitution to the county, and could face up to a year in jail when he is sentenced in December.
Hounshell was indicted in 2005 on four felony counts, including misuse of public money, fraud and theft. Those charges alleged Hounshell and his top aides made frequent trips to the Valley on personal business, billing Apache County for their expenses.
Hounshell did not return phone calls. His lawyer, Michael Kimerer, said Hounshell acknowledged using a county trailer to haul a personal vehicle, but denied other allegations of fraud and theft that had been leveled by prosecutors in the original indictment.
Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, who worked as a special prosecutor in the Hounshell case, said he was prepared to prove the more serious charges Hounshell faces, adding he expects the sheriff to serve at least some time in jail.