May 28, 2015

Investigators: Pilot reported mechanical issues before Lexington County crash

Image: Lexington County Sheriff's Department

Image: Lexington County Sheriff’s Department

Federal investigators say a prominent Midlands real estate icon reported mechanical issues on the small experimental plane he was flying shortly before it crashed Saturday, killing him.

The Lexington County Coroner’s Office said 85-year-old Robert “Bob” Russell of Columbia died after the BR Legend Turbine Legend aircraft crashed into a small pond one mile west of Columbia Metropolitan Airport. Russell was the only person onboard besides a dog that was also killed, according to The State newspaper. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.

Initial information from the Federal Aviation Authority said Russell had taken off from Columbia on a flight to Asheville around 9:15 a.m. Saturday. The FAA said Russell had reported a mechanical problem shortly after takeoff and was returning to the airport when his plane went into the pond. The pond is located close to the county-run Pine Grove Sports Complex.

Russell is one-half of the founding namesakes of the Russell & Jeffcoat real estate firm, which is the largest in the Columbia area with more than two dozen branches scattered throughout the Midlands. Russell partnered with the late Abb Jeffcoat to open the company in 1965.

The plane was pulled out of the pond around 4:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

Charleston School of Law will accept new class, but cuts some faculty

File photo


The struggling Charleston School of Law (CSOL) says it will be able to accept new students for this upcoming school year, easing fears that the school could soon close.

However, the private law school’s owners said they will still make cuts: laying off at least seven faculty members and consolidating several facilities in cost-trimming moves.

“It’s been hard to lose these members of our staff and faculty, but it’s been a necessary business move to ensure that the size of the school is appropriate for the number of students we have,” school spokesman Andy Brack said in a written statement. “Our existing staff will be able to meet students’ needs as a number of functions have been consolidated.”

Speculation into the school’s future flared up two weeks ago after the college’s two remaining owners issued a statement May 5 explaining that they “cannot in good faith enroll another class” when the school is spending more money than is coming in. Retired judges George Kosko and Robert Carr also said in the statement that they cannot assure students that they will be able to use federal student loans for their full three years or that the school will even be able to maintain its license and stay open during that time.

24 staff members and four faculty members have left the school through buyouts, separation packages, and attrition since May 2014, school leader say.

CSOL plans to to consolidate several facilities into its Mary Street location and another building on Meeting Street.

Carr and Kosko had spent more than a year attempting to sell CSOL to InfiLaw System, which owns three other for-profit law schools around the country. The sale was strongly criticized by alumni and faculty, who claim InfiLaw is a diploma mill with lower academic standards. The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education came down against the acquisition last year, while the American Bar Association allowed it.


Suspect in Berkeley County deputy shooting killed in standoff with police

Charleston Police say they have shot and killed a man suspected of critically injuring a Berkeley County deputy last week, ending a more than 10-hour standoff.

Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen told reporters Thursday that 32-year-old Jerome Caldwell of Mount Pleasant was killed after he emerged from an apartment firing at officers outside. Negotiators had been trying to talk with Caldwell ever since around 3:47 a.m. when a State Law Enforcement Division agent approached the apartment with a warrant for his arrest. The standoff occurred at the Robert Mills Manor housing project in the center of Charleston’s peninsula, located a few blocks north of the city’s famous Broad Street.

Mullen said Caldwell slammed the door on the agent once the agent began asking questions. He later opened fire several times on police gathering outside. Mullen said negotiations were not successful and Caldwell eventually came out of the rear of the building firing his gun. Officers returned fire and Caldwell was struck. Coroner Rae Wooten said he died at the scene. No other injuries were reported.

Berkeley County Lt. Will Rogers was listed in critical, but stable, condition this week after he was shot in the back of the head at a Moncks Corner gas station on May 14. The shooting led to a massive manhunt on Friday in the rural areas north of the town.

Charleston Police have been evacuating residents since around 7:00 a.m, according to neighbors.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office, and others have promised an $11,000 reward for information leading to the suspect.

Census Bureau: Charleston close to eclipsing Columbia as SC’s largest city

Charleston (File)

Charleston (File)

New population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau show Charleston is quickly closing the gap on South Carolina’s largest city Columbia.

The annual report released Thursday morning projects Charleston’s population at 130,113 — roughly 2,000 residents behind Columbia’s 132,067 population. If accurate, that would mean the Holy City’s population had grown by more than 10,000 residents since the last Census in 2010. Columbia has grown by just shy of 2,800 residents over that same period.

Charleston has jumped up to become the nation’s 200th-largest city by population, while the Capital City remained at 195th. South Carolina’s third-largest city North Charleston is also growing by a clip of 9,300 residents since 2010. The city’s overall population is believed to have surpassed 100,000 residents for the first time three years ago and now has an estimated 106,749 residents — which would put it as the nation’s 271st-largest urban area.

The Census data released Thursday does not predict when Charleston would surpass Columbia as the Palmetto State’s largest city, but it could happen within the next three years under current growth rates.

Mount Pleasant is also moving up the national rankings, as the state’s fourth-largest city also grew by nearly 10,000 residents since 2010 to 77,796 in all. The next-largest city Rock Hill grew by roughly 3,800 residents in that span to 69,967 in all. Greenville is thought to be the state’s sixth-largest city at 62,252 residents.

Ex-SC State board chairman sentenced to five years

Pinson outside the federal courthouse in January 2014 (FILE)

Pinson outside the federal courthouse in January 2014 (FILE)

A federal judge has sentenced the former chairman of the South Carolina State University board of trustees to five years in prison.

District Judge David Norton on Wednesday ordered Jonathan Pinson to also repay $338,000 in restitution. The time of the sentence was not as high as the 12 years U.S. Attorneys had been seeking, but it was more than double than the two years his defense requested.

Pinson is already appealing his conviction. He has 14 additional days to appeal the sentence. He did not comment to reporters after the sentence was handed down.

A federal jury last year found the Greenville businessman guilty on 29 counts related to racketeering and corruption. The charges stemmed from business dealings that Pinson had with SC State, the Village at River’s Edge low-income housing project in Columbia, and a Marion County diaper factory.

[Read more…]