Butler County Sheriff Faces Charges; Judge Steps Down from Case

July 12, 2004 -- Posted at 4:24 p.m. CDT

POPLAR BLUFF -- The first day of a legal battle began today for one Region 8 Sheriff.  While today's proceedings were standard, this case is anything but.

Judge John Bloodworth stepped down from the case Monday during the initial arraignment and so far the date for the preliminary hearing hasn't been set yet.  The Missouri State Supreme Court now has the task of appointing a special judge who will likely be from outside of Butler County.
Heaton faces misdemeanor charges of stealing by deceit and tampering with a witness.  He also faces a felony charge of corruption.
Sheriff Bill Heaton didn't actually appear in court Monday, instead his lawyers filed paper waiving his right to appear. He did spend the day working at the Butler County Sheriff's Department doing his normal and regular duties.
His lawyer Jasper Edmunson said, "I try to avoid trying these cases in the media. I know you guys have a job to do and I respect that. But we prefer to try these cases in the courtroom and I'm actually looking forward to it. I don't think it will take long because I think it will get to trial very, very shortly."
The charges resulted from an investigation conducted by the Missouri Highway Patrol's Division of Drug and Crime Control.  Something that couldn't come at a worse time for a sheriff seeking reelection.

"We would like to have a preliminary hearing before the primary. I would hope that we could get the trial before November. I think that's in the Sheriff's best interest, and the county's best interest. I think everybody deserves to have a frank look at this in the bright of the day," said Edmunson.