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OXFORD — Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins, who is facing criminal charges accusing him of urging the murder of a former deputy, agreed to step aside Monday as the case makes its way to court.
A superior court judge will consider permanently removing Wilkins from office at a hearing that will take place after the criminal case against him concludes.
Chief Deputy Sherwood Boyd will serve in the role of sheriff until the Granville County Board of Commissioners appoints a replacement to fill the temporary vacancy, the county announced Monday.
Wilkins and his attorney, Thomas Manning, did not immediately respond to calls and emails requesting comment.
Wilkins was indicted by a grand jury last week on two counts of felony obstruction of justice following a 10-month investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation.
According to the indictments, investigators reviewed a tape of a 2014 phone conversation Wilkins had with another person he knows. During the call, Wilkins is said to have urged the other person to kill former deputy Joshua Freeman.
The sheriff believed Freeman possessed and planned to release recordings of Wilkins "using racially offensive language," the indictments claim. The sheriff fired Freeman 10 days earlier.
"The only way you gonna stop him is kill him," Wilkins was allegedly recorded as saying in the conversation with the would-be killer, who has not been named by authorities.
Documents show that Wilkins, 59, is accused of providing tips to the person on how to execute the killing and to do so "in a manner as to avoid identification." According to documents, Wilkins is quoted as saying "you ain't got the weapon, you ain't got nothing to go on" and "the only way we find out these murder things is people talk. You can't tell nobody nothin.'"
The sheriff also discussed a specific time and location in Granville County to carry out the killing, the indictments allege.
Last week during a press conference, Granville County Attorney Jim Wrenn said he found the allegations against Wilkins to be unsettling. He said at the time that he would consider taking legal steps to possibly remove Wilkins from office after he reviewed evidence against him.
He did so Monday.
"The allegations in the indictments raise questions about (Wilkins') fitness for office including whether (Wilkins) willfully or habitually neglected or refused to perform the duties of his office, engaged in willful misconduct or maladministration in office and/or engaged in corruption," Wrenn wrote in a court petition Monday requesting a judge suspend Wilkins as sheriff.
Wilkins agreed to step aside while the criminal charges are prosecuted, court records show.
Prosecutors have said there is an ongoing second investigation into the sheriff's office accounting practices and drug interdiction efforts. Details of that case were not released and it's not clear if it involves Sheriff Wilkins or other county employees directly.
Wilkins, a Democrat in office since 2009, was served his indictment Sept. 16 by SBI and FBI agents. He appeared before a magistrate and was released on a $20,000 unsecured bond. Wilkins will have his first court appearance in Granville County court Oct. 9 at 9:30 a.m.