Ferrell and his attorney Jim Robison were notified today by the office of Robert P. McCulloch, who was appointed special prosecutor in case. McCulloch's one sentence memorandum enters the order of "Nolle Prosequi," which means he will proceed no further.
According to Robison, he and Ferrell were meeting in preparation for today's arraignment on the charges when they learned of the order.
At today's hearing Robison said they were planning to seek a dismissal alleging Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd had a conflict of interest when working with the grand jury which handed down an indictment Feb. 23 accusing Ferrell of stealing between "$500 and $20,000 from the Sheriff's DARE fund and Crime Prevention Fund" between Dec. 1, 2004, and Feb. 26, 2005.
While Robison said neither he nor Ferrell have been told specifically why the special prosecutor was not pursuing the case, he did offer some explanation why the charges were filed against his client.
"I think what this case does point out once again is the abuses that the grand jury system has built into it," said Robison. "We think we had a prosecuting attorney, who had by own admission had conflict of interest."
The attorney noted that after the grand jury's indictment was signed on Feb. 22 that it was filed on Feb. 23 with the Scott County Circuit Clerk. Also on Feb. 23, Boyd filed a request for a change in prosecutor stating he had a conflict of interest.
"We think this case is a by-product of some political bickering that had gone on," said Robison. "(Ferrell) had refused to kowtow to the County Commission ... and there have been some bad feelings ... then we got a prosecuting attorney who was politically ambitious" who sought the indictment against Ferrell, after retiring from office.
Calling the use of a grand jury "extremely bias and an unfair system," Robison explained the grand jury is guided by the prosecuting attorney who decides who to come before the grand jury and what evidence to present. He emphasized Ferrell, who had cooperated with the Missouri State Highway Patrol's investigation, was not called to testify.
"If the purpose of calling a grand jury had been to allow the grand jury to figure out what had happened then call Bill Ferrell as a witness and allow him tell his side of story," said Robison. "But they avoided doing that. I'm absolutely convinced that (the indictment) would never have occurred if the prosecuting attorney had allowed Bill to come in and tell his story."
The attorney and Ferrell again stated that there never was a theft of public money. They believe the stealing charges stem from an account which Ferrell had used to solicit private funds for equipment for his department and while hosting a golf tournament. At the end of his term in office Ferrell donated the remaining funds to local charities including Southeast Missouri State University, the Shriners and the Kenny Rogers Children's Center.
Obviously pleased by the turn of events, Ferrell in his ever-present cowboy hat, said he was pleased by the special prosecutor's decision.
"I've always known I've never done anything wrong and I wouldn't have done anything wrong," he said. "But they have almost branded me. I guess they got done what they wanted to get done - to embarrass me and my family."
Robison said it would be possible to refile charges against Ferrell but said it would be difficult since Boyd, as the Scott County prosecutor, has indicated he has a conflict of interest in the case.
Boyd's office was contacted and he did not have a comment about the case, according to office personnel.