An elected official in West Alabama is being charged with a felony crime. Commissioner Mark Gibson of Choctaw County turned himself in to authorities Wednesday. The 54-year-old is accused in a theft case that dates back two years.
"It's nothing personal at all."
Choctaw County Sheriff Tom Abate is talking about the criminal charge that District 4 Commissioner Mark Gibson is facing.
"It's been a hard case for me to do."
It was a week ago when Sheriff Abate says he was first made aware of the alleged theft. The information came from a citizen's commentary in the local newspaper. It was about a piece of county equipment that was allegedly at a scrap yard in Silas.
"We interviewed several people within the district and we received information that Commissioner Gibson allegedly ordered them to take the bush hog to the scrap yard to sell it for scrap and they did and gave him the money for scrap. We checked with the county clerk and they did not receive any money for that bush hog."
After verifying the serial numbers for the bush hog, deputies impounded it.
The equipment in question was purchased around 2002 for about $14,000. Right now it's worth more than $500, and this means that the charge in the case is a felony. This also means that ultimately, if Commissioner Gibson is found guilty, he could face anywhere from one to ten years behind bars.
Charged with second degree theft, next up for Gibson is a rights hearing; that's expected to happen in late May, but could happen sooner.
Sheriff Abate says the Board of Commissioners is fully cooperating with the investigation. Although the probe continues, he says at this time no other charges nor arrests are expected.
"The county commission and probate judge are looking over their inventory to make sure that some thing like this doesn't happen in the future; making sure that each district has equipment that it is supposed to and that it is visible in the location where it's supposed to be."
After being booked into jail, Commissioner Mark Gibson was released on $5,000 bond. We've attempted to contact him, but have yet to receive a response. Currently, Gibson is expected to appear in a Choctaw County court when the next rights hearing is held on May 28th.