Ex-Saline County deputy pleads guilty

Staff Writer

BENTON, Ark. (AP) — A former Saline County chief deputy was sentenced to probation Thursday after pleading guilty to a felony charge of abuse of public trust.

Jo Nell Mallory was sentenced in Saline County Circuit Court to 18 months of probation and ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution to the sheriff's office. Mallory, 62, was accused of waiving a criminal fine in exchange for having new tile flooring installed in her home. She was also accused of taking money from telephone kiosks at the sheriff's office and the county jail.

Mallory was chief deputy of finance for former Sheriff Bruce Pennington, who pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge in August. He was accused of using more than $20,000 in campaign contributions to pay for personal expenses like mortgage payments, utilities and groceries, and using some contributions to go on trips to casinos, representatives of the U.S. Attorney's office said.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Pennington in federal court on Dec. 7, according to court documents.

Pennington's attorneys filed a continuance in August in Saline County Circuit Court, where he faces additional charges of abuse of public trust and theft of property. A trial is scheduled for Jan. 28 in that case, according to court records.

Cody Hiland, the special prosecutor appointed to try the case, said Thursday that Mallory cooperated in the investigation into Pennington.

"We took her forthrightness related to her participation in the crime and her willingness to assist in the investigation against former Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington into account in our sentencing recommendation," Hiland said.

Pennington is accused of canceling a man's court-ordered community service in exchange for free granite countertops, cashing and taking a $1,000 check intended for SWAT team vests and taking about $800 from the jail and sheriff's office telephone kiosks.