WAXAHACHIE, Texas - Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown resigned Wednesday and pleaded guilty to assault charges after getting into a fistfight at a fast food restaurant.
The fight happened on New Year’s Day at the Whataburger restaurant in Midlothian. Sheriff Brown and his brother were involved in a verbal and physical altercation with another group of patrons.
Two 21-year-old men from Killeen, Matthew Longoria and his friend, told police Brown’s brother started the fight because of an incident in the parking lot. Words were exchanged as they ordered food and there is video of the sheriff throwing at least one punch.
Brown, who served two terms as sheriff and was recently re-elected, admitted to assaulting Longoria early that morning.
Longoria also told police when witnesses threatened to call the cops that Brown bragged, "We ARE the cops!”
“When you're elected as sheriff, you swear to protect the people of your county,” Longoria said. “And I just didn't think he did his job that night."
The fight was captured on cell phone video and surveillance cameras, video that has not been released. Sources say that was convincing evidence of Brown's guilt.
Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon, who was brought in as special prosecutor for the case, praised the victims.
“I thought that they were good reflection of what our youth is,” he said. “They showed restraint and judgment and accepted the fact that Mr. Brown accepted responsibility."
No one was arrested immediately afterward, but Brown pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault at a hearing on Wednesday. He also turned in his letter of resignation and surrendered his peace officer’s certificate.
The former sheriff was fingerprinted, booked and had his photo taken by the very jailors he once commanded. But Brown did not spend time behind bars since he was only sentenced to one day and a $500 fine.
“I have also taken ownership of the criminal responsibility that arose from my participation in the incident involving my brother and third parties,” he wrote in his resignation letter. “I have accepted the judgment and sentencing of the court and will not file a motion for a new trial or appeal.”
Brown also thanked the residents of Ellis County and apologized to all he may have hurt or disappointed.
“As can be seen by the actions I have taken to make things right today, I care more for the office I held, my coworkers and fellow public officials, the citizens of Ellis County and respect for the law than to continue a battle that consumes time, money, and detracts from the mission of protecting and serving,” he wrote.
Brown declined an on-camera interview with FOX4 but said in a statement that he takes full ownership over what happened and offered his apologies to anyone that he hurt or disappointed.
"It was not that he was not without any type of fault or responsibility,” said Richard Carter, Brown’s attorney. “But he ultimately bit the bullet on this and took responsibility for the things going forward for the benefit of this office and this county and the citizens."
Brown added he just didn't want to fight this and drag it out in court. The investigation into his brother's role in the fight is ongoing.