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Sedgwick County residents grapple with sexual assault accusations against sheriff

DA: By law, the Coroner is now the Sheriff
Posted: 10:05 PM, Aug 24, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-25 04:05:21Z

SEDGWICK COUNTY, Colo. -- Word that Sedgwick County Sheriff Thomas Hanna had been charged with sexual assault spread like wildfire through Julesburg, the county seat, on Wednesday.

“We pretty much learned about it yesterday afternoon,” said County Commissioner Mark Turner. “It’s tough on a small community like this, for anything like this to happen. It’s just a disappointment.”

Hanna was elected to office in 2014, with nearly 61 percent of the vote. Afterward, he posted on Facebook:

"I am truly humbled to become the Sheriff elect of Sedgwick County. Thank you to everyone that voted for me; I will not let you down and I will keep the promises that I have made. It is time to show this county what a respected, proactive, and professional department can do to better the lives of the citizens of this community."

Now, many residents say they have been let down.

“I’m just really surprised and shocked,” said neighbor Alayne Rattigan. 

“It’s an embarrassment and it’s quite sad,” said Christine Hadeen, part owner of the Antiques and Artisans shop in downtown Julesburg. “It’s hard for some people to stay on the straight and narrow path in their life, but they sure need to try harder.”

Rattigan told Denver7 that she’s not as concerned about the Sheriff and his issues, as she is his wife, who has filed for divorce.

“It’s a small town,” Rattigan said, “and I think she needs some support. Sometimes people tend to overlook the collateral damage. It’s something she didn’t cause, yet it could affect her.”

“My reaction was, ‘Oh gosh,’” said County Commissioner Jim Beck. “It’s heartbreaking for a small town.”

Beck said he doesn’t want to judge Hanna.

“I don’t condemn anybody for anything until he’s proven guilty,” Beck said. “He’s still a good man.”

Hanna is being held in the Logan County Jail on $250,000 bond . He’s due back in court Sept. 16.

The 13th Judicial District Attorney, Brittny Lewton, told Denver7 that by law, the Coroner is now the Sheriff.

“Whenever a Sheriff is unable to perform his duties, the Coroner becomes the Sheriff,” she said. 

Howard McCormick will oversee the office until the Sedgwick County Commissioners can appoint a replacement. 

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