Credit: The Associated Press

The sheriff of Tallahatchie County has been arrested on federal narcotics trafficking and extortion charges, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

William Brewer, 58, appeared in court on Friday before federal judge Roy Percy. He is now in the U.S. Marshals Service custody with preliminary and detention hearings set for August 14 at 10 a.m. in the federal courthouse in Oxford.

The arrest announcement was made Friday by William Lamar, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi and Christopher Freeze of the FBI, according to a news release by U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Brewer is charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, and extortion and bribery under color of official right in violation of the Hobbs Act.

If convicted, he will face up to 20 years in prison on each count, as well as fines ranging from $250,000 to a million dollars per count.

Brad Daigneault, Brewer’s attorney, told Mississippi Today they did not have a comment at the time.

Executive director of the Mississippi Sheriffs’ Association, Stacie Rutland, said the organization did not have a comment.

“We don’t know anything except what we’ve heard about through the grapevine,” a clerk in the Tallahatchie County clerk’s office told Mississippi Today.

According to reports, Brewer had been in office for about 20 years, first appointed to the post when the previous sheriff died in office. He then was elected to the position multiple times.

“I am taken aback,” said Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston, who is also the attorney for the Tallahatchie Board of Supervisors. “”We will just have to see what is there. It is hard to fathom at all.”

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Michelle Liu was a 2018 corps member for Report for America, a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms. She covered criminal justice issues across the state from June 2018 until May 2020. Prior to joining the Mississippi Today team, her work appeared in the New Haven Independent.