Sheriff Telb pleads 'not guilty'

Lucas County Sheriff Telb in a previous interview with News 11.
Lucas County Sheriff Telb in a previous interview with News 11.

TOLEDO (WTOL) - Lucas County Sheriff Telb was arraigned in court Friday, May 1 along with two other officers accused of civil rights crimes against an inmate. All three plead 'not guilty'.

Sheriff Telb was in good spirits before the arraignment, along with some of his other co-defendants.

"We'll let the criminal justice system work. We'll let it work through. I spent most of my adult life in criminal justice. I'm comfortable with the system. I'm sure when it's all over, I'll be exonerated," said Telb.

This is the first time they faced a judge after the death of Lucas County inmate Carlton Benton in 2004. Back then, John Gray was a sergeant inside the jail.

Federal agents say he strangled Benton and put him in what's called a sleeper hold. They say Gray left Benton lifeless in his cell and omitted his actions on correction reports and to the feds. Jay Schmeltz is also accused of assaulting Benton the same day.

Lt. Robert McBroom in internal affairs investigated the incident, and the feds say he and the sheriff covered it up.

All four pled not guilty, and all four were ordered not to carry a gun while on release.

"I'm not stepping down. I'm going back to work right now," Telb told us. About the gun, he said, "I don't have a gun with me now, no."

Crime Reporter Lisa Rantala asked, "Is that going to affect you during your day to day?"

"No. I have plenty of people around me who have guns."

While the sheriff feels all four will be cleared, the courtroom setting heightened the anxiety. "Well, it was a new experience. I guess I was nervous. You'd have to be made of ice if you didn't get a little nervous."

All four defendants were issued bonds, but they don't have to pay them unless they fail to show up for court. If found guilty, the sheriff and McBroom could face up to three years in prison. Schmeltz faces up to 10 years. Retired Sergeant John Gray faces up to life behind bars.