- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2015

HILLSBORO, Texas (AP) - A North Texas sheriff, his former chief deputy and another former deputy have been indicted on charges stemming from allegations of officer-licensing irregularities.

A judge has suspended Hill County Sheriff Michael Cox in light of the charges.

Cox, former chief deputy Mark Wilson and former sheriff’s Capt. Leroy Rodriguez are charged with record tampering and other charges.

The three had been free on bond since their original arrests in March.

Cox, a 39-year-old former Hillsboro police officer who became sheriff in January 2013, is charged with two records-tampering counts and single counts of abuse of power and breaching computer security.

Wilson, 61, is charged with seven records-tampering counts and one of breaching computer security. Rodriguez, 35, is charged with two record-tampering counts and one of breaching computer security.

Each count would be punishable upon conviction by up to two years in state jail.

The investigation was initiated by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which makes and enforces law enforcement standards across the state.

The indictment alleges Cox abused his office by directing an employee to complete his homework for a college criminal justice class in which he was enrolled. Cox and Wilson are accused of coercing an office employee into taking a licensing exam for Cox. Cox also is accused of ordering another office employee to falsely report to the Texas Commission of Jail Standards that jail inmates were seen at a downtown Hillsboro restaurant.

Wilson also is accused of signing and notarizing peace officer and county jailer applications without the sheriff’s signature required by the state for a license.

Rodriguez is accused of providing his Commission on Law Enforcement username and password to a jailer to complete and submit a certification course.

Cox’s attorney, Pete Schulte, has called the charges “laughable.”

“They are absolutely false. He is innocent. He looks forward to going to court and showing these charges are politically motivated and false,” he said.

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