WINCHESTER — A letter sent to The Winchester Star calls into question a 2013 Virginia State Police investigation into Frederick County sheriff candidate Allen Sibert for possessing confiscated drugs, but Sibert, a Republican who is challenging incumbent Lenny Millholland in the Nov. 5 election, says he has "nothing to hide."
The letter was sent anonymously earlier this year by a "concerned citizen from Frederick County,” but Frederick County Sheriff's Office Capt. Aleck Beeman admitted in August that he had written it. He said he wrote the letter as a county resident, not as a Sheriff's Office employee.
"I believe that the citizens of Frederick County deserve to know the truth about Mr. Sibert's past performance as a law enforcement officer," the letter states.
Sibert was not prosecuted as a result of the investigation. He says Beeman, who supports Millholland's re-election bid, dredged up the investigation as "a political attack by an ultra-left liberal."
"We saw this same sort of thing with President Trump and Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh," Sibert said. He says Beeman "hates his guts with every fiber of his being” and that Beeman is just trying to save his roughly $110,000 a year job with Millholland, who is running as an independent.
Sibert confirmed he was investigated six years ago by state police over allegations that he illegally possessed controlled substances and drug paraphernalia confiscated from previous criminal cases. He was employed by the Frederick County Sheriff's Office when the investigation occurred. He says the drugs and paraphernalia were used in law enforcement training exercises.
State code says all controlled substances that come into the custody of a peace officer or that have been seized must be forfeited and destroyed, but code also says a court may permit the items to be given to a person or entity, if the person is able to demonstrate a sufficient need for the drugs and an ability to put them to a lawful and beneficial use.
Sibert, who is now a major and chief deputy in the Winchester Sheriff's Office, previously worked as captain of investigations in the Frederick County Sheriff's Office. He and Beeman were co-workers at that time. From 1989-2004, Sibert worked at the Warren County Sheriff's Office. From 1994 until July 2012, he was part of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task force, serving as the task force's team leader from 2004 until 2012.
State police declined to release the findings of the investigation in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by The Winchester Star because it contained information the investigator did not want made public. However, the Frederick County and Warren County commonwealth's attorneys did not pursue a case against Sibert. Frederick County Commonwealth's Attorney Ross Spicer cited a lack of illegal activity.
“It was explained to me that his possession of those drugs was solely as the result of his teaching efforts in the community,” Spicer said in an interview. “He would use those for props essentially. In our view, his use of the drugs was permissible under state law.”
Although the investigation is long over, Beeman said he is raising the matter as a campaign issue because Sibert never publicly acknowledged it. Sibert said he never made a public statement about the investigation because "it wasn't that big of a deal."
Beeman, however, thinks voters should be made aware. He also believes Sibert should have been prosecuted.
“It is not legal,” Beeman said. “Law enforcement officers cannot possess drugs. They are no different than anybody else. We can possess them in our duty. I can take them off you and turn them into evidence and then I can take them and turn it over to the lab, but I just can’t take them and keep them for several years.”
The investigation was launched after photographs of heroin and needles were published in an Aug. 22, 2013, Winchester Star article, “All hands on deck to fight the heroin war,” about the Drug Task Force’s participation in a heroin summit. Sibert participated in the summit and used several drugs as props for educational purposes.
Beeman noticed the heroin and needles in the newspaper photos, including an ounce bag of heroin, with captions stating the drugs had been seized by the Frederick County Sheriff's Office.
He didn't think Sibert should have been allowed to take the evidence out of the evidence room and display it, so he showed the article to the Sheriff’s Office's property officer.
“When I went to our property officer and said, 'Hey, you can’t do that,’ and showed him the article, he said, ‘They are not [the Sheriff's Office's] drugs,’” Beeman said.
Beeman went to then-Sheriff Robert Williamson with his concerns. Although Sibert had placed the drugs in the Sheriff’s Office evidence room in glass jars and a lockbox, Beeman said they were not logged into PISTOL — a program for law enforcement agencies to track and manage records.
According to Beeman, Sibert had stored more than $100,000 worth of drugs. Documentation provided by the Sheriff's Office says they included heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, steroids, marijuana, fentanyl, LSD, ecstasy and crack cocaine.
Sibert told Williamson he kept the drugs from Drug Task Force cases he worked while he was employed at the Warren County Sheriff's Office to use in training exercises. He said the state Board of Pharmacy told him he didn’t need to obtain a license to have the drugs for training.
“It wasn’t like I had these things hidden in my house or my desk drawer or anything like that,” Sibert said in an interview. “They were right there. In fact, if I had had them in my house, he would have never known I had it.”
Sibert said former Warren County sheriffs Lynn Armentrout and Daniel McEathron gave him permission to keep the drugs for training purposes.
“Mr. Sibert came from Warren County and look at the issues they are having in Warren County," Beeman said, referring to a multimillion dollar civil lawsuit recently filed by the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority against numerous defendants, including McEathron, who has since died.
Williamson, who retired in 2015, said in a recent interview that he asked state police to determine why the drugs in Sibert's possession hadn't been destroyed and if any illegal activity occurred. He said he never received a court order stating Sibert could possess the drugs.
The state police's response to The Star's FOIA request did state there was an investigation into whether Sibert forged a public document, but it did not state the outcome or what the document was. The dates of the alleged forgery occurred between Jan. 1, 1997, to Dec. 31, 2002, in Frederick and Warren counties.
Sibert told The Star he did not know what the forgery allegation was in reference to. He said state police destroyed the drugs after the investigation was complete.
The Frederick County commonwealth's attorney said his investigation into Sibert did not include how he came into possession of the drugs, which occurred when Sibert worked in Warren County. Brian Madden, former Warren County commonwealth's attorney, declined to comment because he is now a judge in the 26th Judicial Court. Current Warren County Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Layton said he was unable to determine why Madden chose not to prosecute Sibert.
Beeman speculated that Sibert may not have been prosecuted because he had testified in court cases as a Drug Task Force member and that may call those cases into question.
Local public defender Timothy Coyne, who is not connected to the investigation, said defense attorneys could try to overturn a conviction, seek a writ of actual innocence or a writ of habeas corpus if an officer who had testified against a client ended up being charged of a crime and his or her credibility was called into question.
Sibert resigned from the Frederick County Sheriff's Office on Nov 15, 2013, and started his job with the Winchester Sheriff's Office on Jan. 1, 2014. He said Winchester Sheriff Les Taylor, a Republican, offered him a position. He had been earning $77,190 with the Frederick County Sheriff's Office. His starting salary with the Winchester Sheriff's Office was $47,777.
Beeman said Williamson asked Sibert to resign, a claim Williamson and Sibert both deny. Williamson said Sibert offered his resignation and that there was no threat of Sibert being terminated. Williamson recently endorsed Sibert for sheriff, despite supporting Millholland in the 2015 election. Williamson said in a Facebook statement in August that Millholland “has not lived up to the expectations that the Sheriff’s Office needs.”
Asked about the investigation involving his opponent, Millholland said law enforcement agencies are heavily scrutinized and need to be kept to a higher standard. He said not following protocol "makes every police agency in the country look bad.” Millholland said he wasn't aware of the letter when it was sent.
Sibert said Beeman's interest in the investigation is more about Beeman not liking him than anything else. He said Beeman wanted to be captain of investigations in the Frederick County Sheriff's Office when Sibert held the position.
“He hated me for awhile,” Sibert said. “So when he had a chance to jump on that bandwagon, he stuck his foot knee-deep in trying to get my job, trying to get me prosecuted for all this kind of crap.”
Beeman said he is "indifferent" about Sibert.
“Let the voters decide,” Beeman said.