Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins announced he has reinstated himself to full duty status, four months after he said he was taking a leave of absence following his indictment by a federal grand jury on charges that accuse him of improperly helping a gun shop owner acquire machine guns.
The announcement comes a few weeks after Jenkins’ attorneys said in court filings that he “continues to work daily, fulfilling his Constitutional Duty as the elected Sheriff of Frederick County ... without his service pistol, at great personal risk to himself” and had resumed work after only “several days of sitting on the side lines.”
In a memo to County Executive Jessica Fitzwater and members of the County Council sent Monday, Jenkins wrote that “effective immediately, I am formally ending my administrative leave of absence that began on April 14, 2023.”
“I’ve made the decision that it’s time to resume my full responsibilities and obligations as Sheriff of Frederick County,” Jenkins said in a statement sent to the media. “The leave of absence was self-imposed and there is no reason not to return to full duty at this point. My routine duties include the management of day-to-day operations, all administrative and management functions, and signatory obligations as the head of the agency.”
Jenkins, who is serving his fifth term as sheriff, was indicted by a federal grand jury in April and ordered to surrender his firearms, including his service pistols. It was in motions asking to be able to carry a weapon that his attorneys said his leave had been brief and he was continuing to work.
A magistrate judge denied his request, and his attorneys are appealing to a district judge.
Fitzwater said in a statement that she was “disappointed that he has gone back on his word” and said he should explain to the public why he was reversing course on his self-imposed leave of absence.
“Sheriff Jenkins’ decision to take a leave of absence demonstrated an understanding of the seriousness of the charges against him,” Fitzwater said.
The Frederick News-Post reported in June that Jenkins was still taking part in some job duties, including executive-level meetings and events. He told the newspaper that he had gone back to the office on occasion to do work.
In an emailed statement, Frederick County Council Vice President Kavonté Duckett said Jenkins “made a mockery of the process” and that Jenkins had been “fully engaged” in the daily operations of the Sheriff’s Office since his leave began.
“No deputy or staff person under his command would be allowed to return to full duty while under indictment and the Sheriff should hold himself to those same standards regardless of elected status. It is clear that the Sheriff believes he is above the law and plays by his own rules,” Duckett wrote.
In an interview with a local radio station last week, Jenkins called the case “my cancer. This is my disease. I’m fighting for my life.”
“It shouldn’t even be happening at all,” he said on WFMD’s “Morning News Express.”
His defense attorneys have also been pushing back on the indictment in court filings, including asking for grand jury minutes because they believe federal prosecutors misstated the facts of the case as well as the law.
“This prosecution is fundamentally unfair,” they wrote in a recent motion.
Federal prosecutors say Jenkins helped gun dealer Robert Krop obtain machine guns to rent out to the public by signing letters saying that the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office wanted to see a demonstration of the guns, which was false. Krop is also charged in the case.
Jenkins’ attorneys say he received nothing of value, and had no intent to commit a violation of the law. They say he sought to meet with federal prosecutors and was rebuffed.
“In this case, the defendant admits and owns that he was negligent. Negligence is not criminal culpability,” they wrote in one filing.
“Sheriff Jenkins is an honest man,” they wrote in another, using bold and italic font. “He cares about his community and goes out of his way to assist local businesses in any way he can. If he thought he was doing anything wrong, he would not have done it at all.”
Prosecutors say that when federal agents asked Jenkins why he had submitted the letters, he said it was to help Krop’s small business.
“The Defendant never stated during his interview that he had any interest in purchasing these machine guns or any interest in demonstrations to determine whether they were suitable for law enforcement purposes,” prosecutors wrote in response to a motion to dismiss. “To the contrary, he told the agents that at least one of them, a belt-fed machine gun, which is used in combat, would not be suitable for use in law enforcement and that he regretted signing the law letter that requested a demonstration of it.”
Jenkins’ attorneys say it is “crystal clear” listening to audiotape of Jenkins’ interview with ATF agents that he was “genuinely surprised ... that anyone thought he had done something wrong.”
“The defense believes that the ATF/government had made up its mind that Sheriff Jenkins was guilty before they ever even spoke with him in May of 2022,” they said.
Banner reporter Cody Boteler contributed to this article.