Thursday, a grand jury in Palo Pinto County indicted the very person who's in charge of keeping that county safe.
Sheriff Ira Mercer turned himself in Thursday morning in Young County, and has already bonded out. The attorney general, who's overseeing the case, says he's charged with two counts of unlawful interception of oral communication.
Employees at the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office say the whole thing took them by surprise Thursday; and apparently, it was a shock to the sheriff as well. His attorney, Tim Ford, said Mercer didn’t know he was facing a grand jury, until the indictments came down.
"He’s been in this business a long, long time," Ford said. "He understands what happens when someone’s indicted. We had him turn himself in in Young County and do a walk through."
According to the grand jury indictment, Mercer was indicted on the following: "intentionally intercept or endeavor to intercept a wire, oral, and/or electronic communication of Julie Easley by installing or affixing an electronic, mechanical, and/or other device to intercept or endeavor to intercept a wire, oral, and/or electronic communication." The document says one incident happened January 24, 2015, and the other happened December 10, 2015.
Julie Easley is a woman the sheriff had once been in a relationship with, says his attorney.
"He hasn’t reflected other than saying there’s no relationship now," Ford said.
An article in the Mineral Wells Index says Easley accused the sheriff of assaulting her in 2015, but he wasn't indicted.
Easley declined to comment to News 8 about either case Thursday.
Ford said he hasn't seen the evidence yet, but understands because of Mercer's position, it'll likely be a high-profile case.
"Puts a little more pique to the public of what’s the interest, everyone’s kind of curious about what to do, what’s going on," he said.
Mercer has been the sheriff of Palo Pinto County for the better part of 12 years, and started his career with the sheriff's office in 1989. There’s no indication yet what, if anything, he plans to do with his position—his attorney says the sheriff can continue working, even under a felony indictment.
He was already planning to give up his position on December 31. On January 1, a new sheriff-- Brett McGuire-- will take over. McGuire is the current city manager for Lake Worth.