Sheriff Root’s bizarre 56th birthday Facebook posting suggests he is ready for retirement
LONDON, Kentucky––In what parallel universe does a county sheriff run for re-election by boasting of non-enforcement of state laws, pledging to continue not enforcing them, slandering critics with demonstrably false allegations from criminal suspects facing trial, endorsing abuse of the injured victims of violent crime, urging victims to take the law into their own hands, and––in the name of fiscal conservatism––potentially setting the county up to lose a multi-million-dollar civil rights lawsuit to anyone pursuing a case alleging unequal administration of justice?
Along the way demonstrating marginal literacy?
Meet John Root, sheriff of Laurel County, Kentucky since 2010, whose Facebook posting at approximately 2:30 p.m. on August 14, 2021 did all the above and more.
Root confirmed almost every allegation against him
Responding to a YouTube video posted by Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK] founder Steve Hindi, accusing Root of corruption for failing to close two long established Laurel County cockpits, Root confirmed almost everything that Hindi alleged.
The two cockpits, according to Hindi, are “the Bald Rock Pit and CJ’s Pit, both run by known cockfighter Rick Johnson,” a relative of Jacklyn Johnson, who was a bailiff in the Laurel County Sheriff’s Department until months after SHARK undercover cameras caught her working security at cockfights.
(See the SHARK video at https://youtu.be/tUIZ7nfXxbU.)
Then Root went on to further compromise himself and the county government he represents.
The Root rant, distributed to about 6,700 Facebook followers, attracted more than 1,100 “likes” and 469 “shares” within 48 hours, but there are more than 62,000 people in Laurel County, 49,000 of whom voted in the November 2020 general election.
Soaring local crime rate
Among those 49,000 people, a reasonable number may be aware that Sheriff John Root has not been much of a sheriff.
Kentucky, overall, has a much lower crime rate than most of the U.S., but Laurel County is an exception. Two-thirds of U.S. cities have lower crime rates than London, the Laurel County seat. The Laurel County property crime rate is 38% above the Kentucky state average; the Laurel County violent crime rate is 43% higher.
Root has managed to rack up this record even while refusing to accept complaints from Hindi and others about cockfighting, illegal gambling, and illegal sales of alcohol at the cockpits, among other alleged offenses.
(Laurel County, except for the city of London, forbids any sale of alcohol by anyone at any time.)
Not taking complaints means those alleged crimes do not go into the statistical database.
While Root declared his intent to run again for sheriff, his posting on the day before his 56th birthday sounded like an embittered public official likely to retire out-of-state, hoping to never again be held accountable for performing sworn duties in an even-handed manner.
“Follow the money” vs. follow the law
Said Root, following a few brief introductory remarks, “If you will go to you tube and I hate to tell you guys that because this guy [Hindi] makes money every time a video is watched and that’s why he goes on with the garbage. It’s called SHARK Cockfighting, they are against chicken fights, dove shoots, rodeos, hunting and now gaming machines and I guess anything else to keep the money coming in for him.”
In point of fact, the Showing Animals Respect & Kindness web site is not monetized, as Root could quickly have seen. Neither SHARK nor Hindi receives any money “every time a video is watched,” unless the viewer chooses to make a Paypal donation.
But it is true that Hindi and SHARK are “against chicken fights, dove shoots, rodeos, hunting and now gaming machines.” This is not unusual. None of these activities attract anywhere near majority public participation or approval, even those that remain fully legal.
More to the point, Kentucky state law forbids “chicken fights,” “dove shoots,” and “gaming machines.”
Who pays the piper?
Root is paid by Laurel County to enforce Kentucky state law, under oath to do the job.
Hindi, in 31 years of campaigning against animal abuse in all forms, has never been paid to campaign by anyone. While SHARK raises funds to pay other personnel, Hindi himself has made his living operating, and recently selling, a successful business called Allied Rivet.
Approximately 22,000 Kentuckians have used rivets made by Allied Rivet at four major car manufacturing plants––and in many other industrial applications.
Continued Root, “Please watch the video he [Hindi] has posted where the 2 ole country boys clean the ground up with him and what’s the first thing he says?????? “The Sheriff is coming”!!!!! Not the corrupt Sheriffs but oh well now you needed help that day and Law Enforcement was the first thing that came to his mind??????”
This is the video in which alleged cockfighters James V. “Bub” Newcomb II, 53, of Waterloo, Ohio, and distant Newcomb neighbor Shannon Lee Clark, 35, on January 3, 2021 repeatedly beat, kicked, and threatened to kill Hindi, in clearly audible statements.
Hindi, 67 and significantly smaller than either Newcomb or Clark, suffered head injuries requiring six surgical staples to close, a broken rib, a separated back, and other internal injuries.
“The corrupt sheriff”
Unfortunately, the “corrupt sheriff,” in Root’s words, did not promptly respond, and has yet to make arrests at any of several cockfights on the Newcomb premises at which SHARK investigators have gathered extensive documentation.
Newcomb and Clark, however, are now under Lawrence County, Ohio grand jury indictment for, In Newcomb’s case, two counts of second degree felonious assault, two counts of fifth degree felony theft, and one count of felonious evidence tampering; and in Clark’s case, one count of second degree felonious assault, one count of fifth degree felony theft, and one count of felonious evidence tampering.
“We are all corrupt, we don’t do our jobs”
Following seventy-two words worth of sniveling self-pity about being allegedly under-appreciated, Root wrote, “But no we are all corrupt, we don’t do our jobs, go get the machines and take them, go to a chicken fight because I’m not a Ky. resident and no one is saying it here but I want you to do it for me… I got news for you it’s not happening here with my agency.”
In translation, Root admitted intent to not enforce the Kentucky laws against cockfighting and gambling machines. Root’s admission that “we are all corrupt, we don’t do our jobs” may have been issued with ironic intent, but in light of what followed, it was a confession.
Root garbles gambling machine story
Root next recalled, in defense of his non-enforcement of the Kentucky anti-gambling laws, that “When I was a Trooper with the Kentucky State Police a agency that I’m extremely proud of I believe the year was 2005? The Governor wanted us to go to numerous locations and seize these machines that are in question, this was a Statewide effort. Well we did, we rented trucks to haul the machines, we rented buildings to store them in, we issued citations and we seized money!!! Part A was a success!!!! Part B not so good…. The courts ordered us to return machines to the locations seized, return money to the businesses it was seized from and ALL charges were dismissed! Well what happened?????? The KSP was out truck rental and storage and things went right on the way it was… Now KSP is a State agency with a huge budget and it sure took a hard hit on us then, can you imagine what it would do to a Sheriffs office??”
NewspaperArchive.com indicates that the incident in question appears to have actually occurred in 2010, documenting nothing similar within five years either way of 2005.
In the 2010 case, attorney Jackie Steele, whose law practice is headquartered in London, Laurel County, a five-minute walk from Root’s office, negotiated a diversionary sentences on behalf of five gambling machine owners in Knox County that allowed them to buy their impounded machines back for $300 apiece.
“Illegal gambling will not be tolerated”
Root, elected Laurel County sheriff a month before that deal was announced, far from worrying about the expense of impounding gambling machines, conducted several well-publicized gambling machine impoundments in 2012, 2014, and 2019.
Said Root of those raids, as reported by the Corbin Times Tribune on June 6, 2012, “An establishment such as the one investigated today whose sole purpose was for illegal gambling will not be tolerated by the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office. Illegal operations tend to draw in other illegal activities into the area.”
The sole purpose of a cockpit is , however, for illegal gambling. That “illegal operations tend to draw other illegal activities” is precisely the focal point that the SHARK “Crush Cockfighting” campaign––underwritten by the Humane Farming Association––has made over and over again, from Monterey County, California, to South Carolina.
“What are we to do?”
Continued Root, “Now YES we do have machines throughout our county and all surrounding counties and throughout the commonwealth as well. YES I’m well aware of it but if the courts or prosecutors want [won’t?] prosecute what are we to do?”
One thing Root might do is to instruct Laurel County Sheriff’s Department public information officer Gilbert Acciardo, to more effectively and more often communicate law enforcement concerns about illegal gambling, including in instances of non-prosecution of cases.
Instead, Root admitted to instructing Acciardo to not respond to Hindi’s documented complaints about cockfights and gambling machines in Laurel County:
“Gilbert got every message from this nut and I, ME, SHERIFF JOHN ROOT was the man that instructed him not to call this guy back.”
It’s Root, Root, Root for the home team
Root’s resume mentions that he “Studied Criminal justice at Western Kentucky University, Studied Criminal justice at Kentucky State Police Academy, Studied Criminal justice at Dept. Criminal Justice Training, Studied Criminal justice at Sue Bennett College, Studied Criminal justice at Eastern Kentucky University.”
Yet Root apparently missed the lessons mentioning that a fundamental precept of U.S. law, enshrined in the Constitution and in the jurisprudence of every state, is the principle of equal enforcement of justice regardless of where a plaintiff or defendant comes from.
“I take offense to someone from another State calling shots!” Root raged. “According to him [Hindi] KSP [Kentucky State Police] is corrupt, they tolerate all this so called behavior! I take offense to that as well I walked the halls of the KSP and a sign that is DRILLED in my head read “NEVER GIVEN ONLY EARNED” no way this guy would comprehend that, they are a great agency!”
Note again that Hindi earned his living for more than 40 years at work helping to give employment to 22,000 Kentuckians.
The Kentucky State Police, meanwhile, like Root, have flagrantly demonstrated disinterest in enforcing the laws prohibiting cockfighting and gambling, in blatant defiance of the majority of the state legislature.
What does wrecker services have to do with it?
Alleged Root, “this is all Political we have people here in this County that is feeding this guy and he is gonna bring a video on our wrecker services and attempt to show how corrupt we are for allowing some to be on and some not to be and we use this one to much and this one is our favorite and blah…blah….blah…..”
What “wrecker services,” i.e. towing companies, have to do with cockfighting and gambling machines, Root left unclear, but Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7 that since Root raised the topic, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness will be looking for whatever the possible connection.
“I WILL BE on the ticket for the office of Sheriff in 2022,” Root finished.
ANIMALS 24-7 as well as Showing Animals Respect & Kindness will be watching.
Root cites cockfighting sources
Root raised more questions about himself in follow-up discussion with Beth Clifton of ANIMALS 24-7, who is a former law enforcement officer.
Wrote Root in a public posting, of Hindi, “Beth Clifton he’s a bully and he went on those guys property and the guys took care of it, then he runs his mouth about wanting to prosecute them……..He thought he was a bad guy and was going to intimidate them. He doesn’t run this county and his petty remarks mean nothing to me! He got his rear kicked and then wanted the corrupt Sheriffs to take care of it??? Get a life!!”
Please note again that Hindi, 67, is significantly smaller than either Newcomb, 53, or Clark, 35, who had Hindi outnumbered two-to-one. In what universe could Hindi have been considered the bully?
Please note further that Hindi’s concealed camera video of the indicted felonious assaults by Newcomb and Clark [examples are above left] clearly show that Hindi was on public access property at all times, not quite up to the Newcomb mailbox and even farther from the Newcomb gate.
No law enforcement agency or media report has ever alleged that Hindi “went on those guys property.”
The only possible source for that Root allegation appears to be suspects Newcomb and Clark themselves, and other suspected cockfighters.
“He should of taken care of it himself”
Added Root, “Beth Clifton bottom line I watched the video and yes I know what he was doing with his little drone and that attitude he has, everyone is not a push over and on that day he screams like a girl for the Sheriff to help him, he should of taken care of it himself since he’s such a bad cocky guy…”
“Should have taken care of it himself”?!
Sheriffs exist precisely to prevent “might makes right” justice by people taking law enforcement into their own hands.
Hindi has only asked Root, and other law enforcement officers who ignore cockfighting, to enforce state laws that are enforced many times per year in other venues.
Examples, since Hindi first named Root in a video in 2020, have come in Rusk County, Texas; Northampton, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; Polk County, Florida; Chatham County, North Carolina; Chilton County, Alabama; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Orland, Louisiana.
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