A North Carolina sheriff has been accused of planning the murder of a deputy he suspected would expose his racist comments.

Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins was indicted by a grand jury Monday for obstruction of justice after allegedly withholding information about a potential threat to Deputy Joshua Freeman in 2014. Wilkins is also accused of encouraging an unidentified person to kill Freeman, saying “the only way you gonna stop him is kill him.” Wilkins also provided advice to the person on how to commit Freeman’s murder and avoid being identified.

According to the indictment, Wilkins’ threat revolved around an alleged recording Freeman was going to provide authorities where the sheriff was caught using racist language.

“Any time you have someone who is sworn to uphold the public trust, to protect their community, to investigate and report crimes, allegedly engage in this type of conduct, it is something that needs to be brought to justice, and so we will continue to follow the evidence in this case,” Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said.

Lorrin Freeman stepped in to oversee the case after Granville County District Attorney Mike Waters asked her to take over the investigation. Instead, he would serve as a witness if it reached trial as he was one of the first people Deputy Freeman gave the Wilkins recording to.

Lorrin Freeman also revealed that Wilkins had been under investigation by the FBI and North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation for several months. It was decided that obstruction would be easier to pursue against Wilkins than conspiracy or solicitation charges.

Wilkins was first elected as Granville County Sheriff in 2009 and won another four-year term during the 2018 elections. He appeared before a local magistrate Monday and was released on $20,000, with a court date set for Oct. 9.  Wilkins is allowed to remain a sheriff during his trial.

Courtroom This photo shows a view of the defendant's table in a courtroom closed due to budget cuts and layoffs, at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, March 16, 2009. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images