November 29, 2014

Suspended Lexington County Sheriff’s case to be in court next week

Lexington County Sheriff Jake Metts (Image: LCSD)

Lexington County Sheriff Jake Metts (Image: LCSD)

Suspended Lexington County sheriff James Metts is arguing in court filings that federal corruption allegations against him should be tossed out.

Metts is accused of taking bribes from the owner of the Midlands-based San Jose restaurants in exchange for releasing some San Jose employees who had been detained for being in the country illegally. The Associated Press reports Metts’ attorneys say the worst the sheriff is guilty of is not reporting the releases to the Feds. Both sides will be in court next week.

Earlier this month, Metts’ lawyers filed papers saying the worst their client did was break a reporting contract with the Department of Homeland Security over a special immigration detention center the county was operating. Prosecutors say Metts conspired to set up the bribery arrangement and should be tried on all 10 counts against him.\

Gov. Nikki Haley suspended Metts from his position in June after his indictments. Federal prosecutors accuse South Carolina’s longest-serving sheriff of bribery and conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. The indictments claim that the restaurant owner Gregorio Leon would contact a “business liaison” with the Sheriff’s Department, to ask for help with employees who had been detained on immigration violations. The liaison would then arrange for Metts to receive cash in exchange for his help, according to the indictments. Leon also faces bribery counts.

Metts entered a “not guilty” plea and has requested a jury trial.

Army plans to store nearly 3,600 mine-resistant vehicles in SC

(File image: U.S. Dept. of Defense)

(File image: U.S. Dept. of Defense)

Joint Base Charleston could soon become home to nearly 3,600 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles as the military tries to find a place to store them.

The Charleston Post & Courier reports the Army Corps of Engineers published a draft version of its environmental assessment of the plan last week. The Army is proposing to build 12 new dehumidified metal buildings totaling 1.6 million square feet, as well as a 38-bay maintenance building and an armory for weapon storage. The facility would be located at Joint Base Charleston’s Naval Weapons Station in Goose Creek.

In 2011, the Army Materiel Command ordered approximately 3,585 MRAP vehicles to be moved from the Red River Army Depot at Texarkana, Arkansas to Goose Creek. The assessment said the existing buildings at Joint Base Charleston were either already in use or unsuitable for long-term storage. The Army says it needs the facility to maintain and store MRAP vehicles being returned from theater for Army Pre-Positioned Stocks.

Of those vehicles, approximately 514 vehicles must be kept ready for deployment within 96 hours. All of the vehicles on site will be required to undergo maintenance at least once every four years.

The environmental assessment concluded that the new facilities would have no significant impact on the 95-acre wooded site next to the base in Goose Creek. The public can comment through December 21.

The Lowcountry already has a history with the MRAPs, which were first deployed in Iraq during the mid-2000s. They were a response to roadside bombs that were lethally destructive of the Humvees the Army had been using. MRAPs were designed to disperse the blast so that its crew inside would not be killed or seriously injured by shrapnel should it hit a mine. Force Protection manufactured thousands of Cougar MRAPs at its facility in the Ladson community. The company was eventually purchased by General Dynamics, which finally halted production at the Ladson plant in June as troops returned from Iraq.

Senator Lindsey Graham not a fan of Benghazi report

Image: ETV

Sen. Lindsey Graham

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham slammed the recently released Benghazi report, led by his own party.

“I think the report is full of crap,” Graham told Gloria Borger on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

“I don’t believe that the report is accurate, given the role that Mike Morell (deputy director of the CIA at the time) played in misleading the Congress on two different occasions,” Graham said. “Why didn’t the report say that?”

The report was released Friday by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-MI, and Ranking Member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-MD. It found little to support the questions about CIA actions the night of the deadly attack on September 11, 2012. It also said confusing intelligence, not deliberate misleading, led the White House (and specifically  then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice) to identify the attackers as angry protestors rather than organized militia.

Graham, who has frequently criticized the Obama Administration’s role in the Benghazi controversy over the past two years, says it’s “garbage” that the report finds no members of the Obama administration lied to cover up what happened in Benghazi.

“That’s a bunch of garbage,” Graham said. “That’s a complete bunch of garbage.”

The investigation was critical of the security situation at the diplomatic outpost, particularly the Libyan military hired to protect the compound.

Graham said he is going to take another look at the findings of the report.


Jeb Bush to speak at USC graduation next month

Jeb Bush (File)

Jeb Bush (File)

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush will be the commencement speaker at the University of South Carolina’s graduation ceremony next month.

The school announced Monday that Bush will speak at 3:30 p.m. on December 15 in a ceremony for roughly 1,900 students receiving a baccalaureate, master’s or professional-degrees. The school will also award Bush an honorary degree in public service during the ceremony. Graduates from USC’s satellite campuses will also get their degrees at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.

The announcement comes as the Republican is reported to be considering a run for the White House in 2016. Many potential GOP presidential candidates have been circulating through the state the past six months. Bush himself was in South Carolina last month, campaigning with Gov. Nikki Haley at stops in Lexington and Greenville.

He’s the third Bush to speak to USC graduates. His father, former President George H.W. Bush, spoke at USC’s 1990 commencement. His brother, former President George W. Bush, spoke to graduates during the spring 2003 commencement ceremonies. His mother Barbara has also received an honorary doctorate from the school.

Jeb Bush served as governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, becoming the state’s first two-term Republican governor.

Charleston School of Law president resigns after one week

Only eight days after the school announced she would be taking the helm, the Charleston School of Law’s incoming president has said she wants no part in the “vitriol” at the struggling school.

Maryann Jones had been announced as the private law school’s new leader just last week.

Several area media outlets reported that Jones sent an email to CSOL’s co-owners Robert Carr and George Kosko saying that she would not sign a contract with the school.

CSOL’s leaders have spent more than a year attempting to sell the school to InfiLaw System, which owns three other for-profit law schools around the country. The sale has been strongly criticized by alumni and faculty, who claim InfiLaw is a diploma mill with lower academic standards. The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education has pushed to delay the acquisition, while the American Bar Association has allowed it.

In her email, which was also sent to Dean Andy Abrams, Jones said she did not want to enter an environment that she considered toxic.

“I truly only wanted to help,” the email stated. “The level of vitriol, with all sides making me a lightning rod for an unfortunate situation that was not of my making, makes this truly a situation that I am unwilling at this stage of my life to undertake.”

Carr and Kosko are pushing the sale, while a third co-owner Ed Westbrook is hoping to create a nonprofit that would instead take over the school and all three initially supported her hiring. But the Charleston Post & Courier reported Westbrook had sent Jones a heated letter accusing her her of supporting the InfiLaw purchase when she had promised to be objective.

Jones had previously served as dean emerita of Western State University College of Law in California.