HomeArkansas newsJohnson County sees change in sheriff's office leadership

Johnson County sees change in sheriff’s office leadership

Arkansas – In a significant development within the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, a new sheriff has been appointed following the resignation and legal troubles of the former sheriff, marking a new chapter in local law enforcement.

Appointment of Tom Hughes as New Sheriff

The quorum court members of a northwest Arkansas county have appointed Tom Hughes as the new head of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. This decision follows the resignation of the previous sheriff, James Stephens, who stepped down amid legal challenges. Tom Hughes, a seasoned law enforcement veteran, assumed his new role on Monday, with plans to serve until the end of Stephens’ term in 2026.

Hughes brings a diverse and extensive background in law enforcement to his new position. A resident of Ozone, Arkansas, he retired as a sergeant from the Fort Worth Police Department in Texas. His tenure at the FWPD encompassed various assignments, including patrol, investigations, narcotics, training, and gang enforcement. In addition to his police career, Hughes has a distinguished military background, having served as a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army Reserve, including multiple deployments to Iraq.

Background on Former Sheriff James Stephens

Former Sheriff James Stephens recently pleaded guilty to felony possession of a controlled substance. Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Holmes outlined the terms of Stephens’ plea deal, which includes a six-year suspended imposition of sentence, effectively offering probation. Additionally, Stephens’ charge of simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms was dropped as part of the plea agreement. He is also required to pay a substantial fine and various fees totaling over $10,000.

Stephens’ legal troubles and subsequent plea deal came almost a year after his arrest in an FBI corruption and narcotics investigation. According to a probable cause affidavit, Stephens was pulled over by state police after leaving a residence in Crawford County. During the stop, he admitted to possessing oxycodone, marijuana, and marijuana butter, claiming he had acquired the drugs from informants. If Stephens had not entered a guilty plea and instead proceeded to trial, he faced a potential sentence ranging from 10-40 years or life in prison for the charge of simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms.

James Stephens had been serving as the sheriff of Johnson County since his election in 2018. With his resignation and guilty plea, Holmes is expected to complete the remainder of Stephens’ current four-year term, which extends for more than three years.

Looking Ahead with New Leadership

The appointment of Tom Hughes as the new sheriff is a pivotal moment for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. His extensive experience in both law enforcement and military service positions him as a capable leader to guide the department through this transition period and beyond. As the department turns the page on this chapter, the focus is now on maintaining law and order under the new leadership of Sheriff Hughes.

Olivia Martinez

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