A former "sheriff of the year" has been arrested on suspicion of attempting to deal drugs in exchange for sex. Patrick Sullivan has been an iconic crime fighting figure in Colorado for decades, but tonight he's behind bars. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.
A former U.S. national sheriff of the year found himself in a jail that was named for him, accused of offering methamphetamine in exchange for sex from a male acquaintance.
Colorado lawman Patrick Sullivan, 68 — handcuffed, dressed in an orange jail uniform and walking with a cane — watched Wednesday as a judge raised his bail amount to a half-million dollars and sent him to the Patrick J. Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility.
The current sheriff, Grayson Robinson, who worked as undersheriff for Sullivan from 1997 until he took over the job in 2002, said the department was shocked and saddened at his arrest.
Robinson said the case is still under investigation, including where and how Sullivan might have gotten the drugs. He declined to say if authorities suspect Sullivan of using drugs, or if others might be charged.
Sullivan's arrest has many in suburban Denver's Arapahoe County where he held sway for nearly two decades wondering what happened to the tough-as-nails lawman they once knew — a law officer known for his heroism in saving two deputies and for his concern about teenage drug use.
"This isn't the Pat I know," said Peg Ackerman, a lobbyist for the County Sheriffs of Colorado who often worked with him on legislation. She said he was concerned about drug use in schools and was a chief of security at a school district.
At the brief hearing, Judge William Sylvester told Sullivan not to contact anyone involved in the case.
Sullivan's attorney, Kevin McGreevy, did not return calls seeking comment.
Sullivan came to the attention of law enforcement after an Oct. 4 call to authorities from a home in Centennial, according to an arrest affidavit. The deputy who responded had worked for Sullivan and knew who he was.
After investigating further, the deputy learned from two confidential informants that Sullivan was dealing meth but would sell it only if they had sex with him, the document stated. He was arrested after police set up a sting at a home.
Deputies found that Sullivan had handed someone a bag of meth and had another bag on him when he was searched, according to the affidavit. Both bags weighed less than a gram.
Sullivan served as sheriff from 1984 until his retirement in 2002.
In 2002, then-U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo praised him on his retirement, citing Sullivan for promoting homeland security and for being named Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriff's Association.
In 1989, Sullivan was hailed as a hero. During a gunman's rampage, he rescued two deputies after crashing his truck through a fence and protecting them while they were loaded into the vehicle.
While those who know Sullivan were puzzled by the news, some said they weren't surprised that a person of his stature could get involved. They said meth users will do almost anything to feed their habit and often hurt others in the process.
"This drug knows no economic, social, professional or occupational boundaries," said state Rep. Ken Summers, who served on a legislative meth task force.