Former Sheriff Billy Long on Monday afternoon entered guilty pleas to 27 counts, including extortion, money laundering providing a gun to a felon and drug trafficking.
He faces 10 years to life at a sentencing hearing on Aug. 18 at 10:30 a.m. by Federal Judge Sandy Mattice.
Defense attorney Jerry Summers said it appears he may fall into a sentencing range category even higher than the 10 years, but he said he plans to argue that the "safety valve" should apply. He said if the safety valve is ruled, then the sentence can be as low as a day. There are several factors involved in figuring the safety valve, including past record and whether a run was involved. Attorney Summers said the former sheriff had his sheriff revolver with him during the incident involving drugs, but did not take it out of his vehicle.
Attorney Summers said at sentencing he will "show the true Billy Long."
He said no actions were ever taken against Indian store owners and he said no illegal drugs were actually distributed in the case.
The attorney said Long "has accepted responsibility from the first day" and admitted he "made numerous mistakes."
He noted that he "surrendered his elected office" without the necessity of a recall.
Long, who had hung his head at previous court appearances, appeared more upbeat. At one point, he turned and smiled at his wife, who sat on the front row. He was wearing a red jail jumpsuit.
One count - possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony - is to be dismissed at sentencing. That would have added five years onto any other sentence.
Prosecutor Gary Humble said the extortion and money laundering carry up to 20 years and providing a firearm to a felon up to 10 years.
He said the drug trafficking count carries a minimum sentence of 10 years up to life.
The prosecutor said former Sheriff Long went to the business of the CW. He said 10 kilograms of cocaine were loaded into the trunk of the CW's vehicle, and the sheriff was told it was being dropped off at another location.
Sheriff Long followed the CW to the "drop" and then gave him a ride back to the business. Then he took a split of $48,000 from the alleged drug deal, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors earlier said the CW told the sheriff that he had to dispose of a gun the sheriff had given him earlier. He said Sheriff Long told him he had "done the right thing" and said he would get him another gun.
The new charge carries a charge of 10 years to life.
Sheriff Long was initially held in isolation in a facility in Blount County over the weekend, but he was later held in the Bradley County Jail. He will continue to be detained there.
He was a longtime lieutenant in the sheriff's department before running on the Democratic ticket and defeating incumbent Sheriff John Cupp in 2006.