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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A Sheriff in North Carolina pled guilty today to wiretapping and recording a high school teacher's telephone calls, which the Sheriff intended to use to force the teacher out of his job.

Mitchell County Sheriff Vernon Lowell Bishop, 37, who was indicted last June by a federal grand jury in Charlotte, admitted that he directed his deputies to illegally record a Mitchell County High School teacher's conversations, which the teacher made from his home on a cordless phone.

Count one of the three-count indictment charged Bishop with intentionally procuring a deputy sheriff, who worked at Bishop's direction, to illegally record the teacher's conversations for the purpose of forcing the teacher out of his job. The second and third counts of the indictment charged Bishop with intentionally disclosing the contents of the illegally recorded conversations to members of the school system and the press in order to further his purpose. Today, Bishop pled guilty to the first count of the indictment and the government agreed to dismiss the other two charges.

"It is especially troubling when those who are charged with protecting the public abuse their positions of power and violate the public trust," said Mark T. Calloway, U.S. Attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina. "Law enforcement has a duty to bring to justice those in law enforcement who knowingly violate the law."

The charges stem from an investigation by the North Carolina SBI and the Justice Department.

Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and the terms of the plea agreement, the United States has agreed to recommend that Bishop be sentenced to either home detention and/or probation. In addition, Bishop has agreed to compensate the teacher $15,339 for lost wages as a result of Bishop's illegal conduct. Under North Carolina law, the felony conviction will prevent Bishop from working in law enforcement again. The court has not yet set a date for sentencing.

"As this case demonstrates, the Justice Department will vigorously enforce federal legislation designed to ensure the privacy of all Americans,"said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kevin Di Gregory.

The case was prosecuted by William Boyum, Assistant U.S. Attorney in Asheville, North Carolina, and Marc J. Zwillinger, Trial Attorney, Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section, Criminal Division.

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