Former Clay County Sheriff Jeffery C. Lyde has been convicted of “official oppression” for holding detainees without probable cause and then making a series of shady moves to cover up his actions.
A Leaked Name
Jeffery C. Lyde served as the sheriff of Clay County, a rural region in North Texas.
He found himself in legal trouble in November 2021 when his name appeared on a leaked roster of the Oath Keepers, a controversial anti-government militia group.
On the same day this information came to light, Lyde was arrested and booked into jail.
His arrest was linked to allegations of misusing his official powers, specifically regarding the prolonged detention of two individuals “without a finding of probable cause.”
The jury trial was recently concluded, and it was disclosed that a local couple, Landon Goad and Sarah Johnson, had been arrested in July 2021 due to a domestic disturbance and were subsequently booked into Clay County’s jail.
Under Texas law, the couple should have been seen by a magistrate judge within 24 hours to assess the evidence of probable cause for their arrest.
Federal courts have established that this due process must occur within a maximum of 48 hours.
However, Goad and Johnson did not receive a judicial review until 46 hours had passed. At that point, a local justice of the peace determined that there was no probable cause to detain them.
Defying the Law
After the local justice of the peace said the couple should have been released immediately, Lyde actually chose to keep them in custody.
This unfortunate move defied both the law and the Constitution. Johnson was detained for an extended period and grew more restless.
Finally, she attempted to hang herself with a shower curtain while on suicide watch. After a brief hospitalization, she was returned to jail.
A federal lawsuit filed by the couple against Lyde claimed that Johnson had actually faked the suicide attempt to make a call to her family from the emergency room.
The couple’s lawsuit against Lyde sought punitive damages, stating that Lyde had “malice, evil intent or reckless or callous indifference” and a disregard for their “constitutionally protected rights.”
After being held for nearly 70 hours, Lyde transferred the couple’s case to a different judge, presenting paperwork that falsely claimed that the couple had been incarcerated for less than two days.
The new judge approved a finding of probable cause for Lyde, and Goad and Johnson were finally released after paying bonds of $1,500 each.
As the situation unfolded, Lyde disregarded instructions from the local district attorney, who had learned of the unlawful detainments and urged the sheriff to release the couple.
In a recorded conversation with a Texas Ranger, Lyde said the original justice on the case was “going to bat for a couple of f****** meth heads.”
When prosecutors subpoenaed the original notarized finding of no probable cause, Lyde concealed the document in his personal office at the sheriff’s department.
Verdict and Consequences
After a five-day trial, Lyde was convicted of “official oppression” and “tampering with a government record,” both Class A misdemeanors.
Each charge carries a potential punishment of up to one year in prison, and his sentencing is scheduled for October.
The prosecutor, Staley Heatly, said this verdict shows “No man is above the law, and no man below it.” and the Constitution applies equally to all.
If the conviction is upheld through appeal, Lyde will permanently lose his peace officer license.
It is also worth noting that Lyde had already been suspended from his position as sheriff in February due to unrelated allegations of sexual harassment involving department employees.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / mark reinstein