Former Simpson County Sheriff Palma Pleads Not Guilty

By Jon Hardison | 

A former Simpson County sheriff accused of misusing public funds pled not guilty in Simpson Circuit Court on Monday.

Joe Palma is facing 11 counts of various degrees of theft stemming from allegations he illegally reimbursed himself for vacation and sick days, and for fuel purchased by the county.

A former employee of Palma's, Monica Thacker, accepted an Alford plea agreement which means she pleads guilty for the purpose of sentencing without confessing guilt for two charges of official misconduct. As part of her agreement, Thacker will testify against Palma if he elects not to accept a plea agreement offered by special prosecutor Rick Boling.

Each of the felony charges against Palma carries a possible sentence of one to five years in prison. Palma will next appear in court on May 10 for a pretrial hearing.