March 4, 2015

Greenville County deputy arrested on accusations of taking bribes

Then-Deputy Shea Smith during a Special Olympics fundraiser (Image: GCSO)

Then-Deputy Shea Smith during a Special Olympics fundraiser (Image: GCSO)

A former Greenville County Sheriff’s deputy who was once third in command at the department is now free on bail after turning himself in Friday for two charges of official misconduct.

State Law Enforcement Division warrants accuse former deputy Brendan Shea Smith of accepting bribes from a man who operated illegal gambling establishment in exchange for helping the operator stay out of legal trouble, including sensitive information about ongoing investigations.

Smith was fired back in July after the initials accusations surfaced of his involvement with Izzat Khalil, a Greenville businessman who frequently had run-ins with the law over illegal gambling operations. The 13th Circuit Solicitors announced the charges Friday after a six-month investigation by SLED. Greenville County Sheriff Steve Loftis had requested the investigation to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest for his former third-in-command.

Loftis said he thought the investigation’s revelations disappointing, but said he has not lost faith in his deputies. “Just because one person in Shea’s case displayed the conduct that he has does not really cause any fear or create any reason for me not to trust the other remaining 342 deputies,” he told Greenville affiliate WORD News.

Khalil’s attorney said the businessman bought the deputy a truck and paid for his children’s school activities in exchange for information about Greenville County investigations into Khalil’s business and other gambling operations. Warrants state that, at some point between June 2008 and January 2014, Smith told Khalil “sensitive law enforcement information.”

Smith was charged with Misconduct in Office, and Public Misconduct in Office. He faces up to 11 years in prison if given the maximum sentence.

SC Democrats pluck new director out of Kansas

Jason Perkey (Image: Association of State Democratic Chairs)

Jason Perkey (Image: Association of State Democratic Chairs)

The South Carolina Democratic Party (SCDP) has named a new executive director, in the hope that he can reverse the statewide party’s downward trajectory the last 20 years.

The party named Jason Perkey as its new non-elected leader Friday. Perkey comes to South Carolina from Kansas, where he led the state party for the past two years. He has also worked on campaigns in Kentucky, Illinois, and Virginia, according to a release from the SCDP.

The Louisville, Ky., native has some ties to the Palmetto State, getting his undergraduate degree from Coker College in Hartsville.

“I look forward to returning to the state where I earned my bachelors degree and to working with Chairman Harrison and the rest of the SCDP team to make sure Democrats are successful in the upcoming election and beyond,” he said in an emailed statement.

Perkey is the permanent replacement for previous executive director Amanda Loveday, who gave up her position in March 2014 to work in Congressman Jim Clyburn’s office.

He will have a difficult task ahead of him. South Carolina Democrats have not won an election to any statewide office since 2006. The party has also not held the Governor’s Office since 2003 and has been in the minority in both the House and Senate for the past 14 years. It also only has a single congressman among the nine representatives and senators who represent South Carolina in Washington.



Corrections officials give details on incident at Bishopville prison

Lee Correctional Institution (Courtesy: SC Department of Corrections)

Lee Correctional Institution (Courtesy: SC Department of Corrections)

South Carolina prison officials say they have once again secured a dorm at the state’s maximum-security prison near Bishopville after an “incident” Thursday afternoon.

Department of Corrections officials are still only giving a few specifics about the standoff at Lee Correctional Institution Thursday afternoon.

Corrections Department spokeswoman Stephanie Givens says the incident began when an officer was trying to search an inmate around noon. Givens said that escalated until numerous inmates eventually assaulted a total of seven officers. She said the officers were injured in the melee, but were never taken hostage.

A standoff then ensued for the rest of the afternoon and late into the evening. Just after 9 p.m., agency officials said an emergency team secured the dorm.

All seven of the officers who struggled with the inmates were taken to outside medical centers and later released. Two inmates were evaluated by medical staff at the prison, but their injuries were not seen as severe enough to receive hospital care

The disturbance remains under investigation by Corrections officials and the State Law Enforcement Division.

Former state Transportation Secretary pleads guilty in DUI case

St. Onge (at right) takes a field sobriety test as a Highway Patrol trooper watches shortly before his 2014 arrest (Image: SCHP)

St. Onge (at right) takes a field sobriety test as a Highway Patrol trooper watches shortly before his 2014 arrest (Image: SCHP)

South Carolina’s former Department of Transportation Secretary will avoid prison after pleading guilty to a reckless driving charge in connection to his DUI arrest last year.

Columbia TV station WIS first reported Robert St. Onge entered the plea in a Lexington County DUI court Monday and was given a $445 fine. The 67-year-old former Transportation Secretary was arrested in January 2014 after a Highway Patrol trooper stopped him for erratic driving on Interstate 20 in Lexington County.

Highway Patrol officials said at the time that St. Onge failed a field sobriety test and was taken to the Lexington County Detention Center, where law enforcement officials performed a breath test and found his blood-alcohol level to be 0.20 percent. The legal limit is 0.08 percent.

St. Onge resigned from SCDOT  later that day.

New vehicle-testing course planned in Greenville County

SCTACAlthough Greenville is a well-known area to the automotive manufacturing industry, one business group is taking the city a step further.

The South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center (SCTAC) is planning to expand its 2,600-acre Greenville campus with vehicle testing facilities. The group revealed details of the 450-acre development project during a presentation at the South Carolina Automotive Summit this week.

SCTAC President and CEO Jody Bryson said the project will include a handling track, which is a testing course with many turns, and an off-road testing site. A road safety training center is also being considered for eventual development.

“We see a unique opportunity to create a cutting-edge test bed that can serve the needs of the automotive industry, not only in the state, but in the Southeast as it grows and evolves into its next phase,” Bryson told South Carolina Radio Network. “And by being ahead of the curve, this will provide more opportunities for companies to come here, which means more jobs for the citizens of our state. And at the end of the day that’s why we do what we do. It’s to create jobs and opportunities for South Carolinians.”

The group already has a straightaway test track which opened in July 2013. An urban track setting was added in November as part of the site’s second phase. [Read more…]