CHARLOTTE, NC (LaVendrick Smith and Joe Marusak | The Charlotte Observer) - Former Davidson County sheriff Gerald Hege has his eyes set on his old job.
Hege, a Republican, is running to unseat current Sheriff David Grice, he said in a Facebook post Wednesday.
"After watching all the drug deaths, murders and break-ins in Davidson County for the last five years … I filed for the office of Sheriff," Hege wrote. "… your support will be deeply appreciated."
The 69-year-old Hege rose to national prominence for jailing prisoners in pink cells. Minutes after being sworn in as sheriff in December 1994, he removed the jail's televisions and had its walls painted pink with blue teddy bears, according to the Associated Press. He later confiscated adult magazines, introduced candy-striped colored uniforms for inmates and put them to work picking up litter and doing other odd jobs, the AP reported.
The number of inmate hospital visits for serious injuries tripled during his first six months in office, however. The State Bureau of Investigation described a pattern of jailers neglecting inmates and trading sex for favors.
In 2004, Hege pleaded guilty to two felony obstruction charges and was given a six-month suspended sentence for each count. He was placed on three years' probation and was ordered to serve the first three months under house arrest.
"When you're the leader of anything, you're the man to take it on the chin," Hege told Superior Court Judge Erwin Spainhour, according to the Associated Press. "When that happens, I accept my responsibility."
Hege was originally charged with 15 felonies, also including embezzlement.
Garry Frank, the county's district attorney, had sought to have Hege removed from office, based in large part on affidavits from county employees. In sworn affidavits, county employees accused Hege of misusing taxpayer money, racial profiling and ordering deputies to beat inmates.
Hege maintained his innocence, saying he pleaded guilty because of financial issues.
"It was the most difficult decision in my life, but if I had had another $100,000, I'd still be sheriff," he told TV station WXII in 2011.
Hege also ran for sheriff in 2010 but lost to Grice, who took over for him after he was convicted.
Despite his criminal convictions, Hege said he is able to run because of a law that went into effect on Dec. 1.
The law reduced from 15 to 10 years the time people convicted of nonviolent felonies must wait to seek to have those crimes expunged, or wiped from their records.
Hege told The (Lexington) Dispatch that he applied for expungement about six weeks ago and that it was accepted on Tuesday. Davidson County Clerk of Court Brian Shipwash confirmed to The Dispatch on Wednesday that Hege has no felony convictions on his record.
The current sheriff didn't seem fazed by Hege's announcement.