February 28, 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.

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.

SC Supreme Court cuts penalty for pharmaceutical corp. accused of deceptive marketing

SC Supreme Court building in Columbia (File)

SC Supreme Court building in Columbia (File)

The South Carolina Supreme Court has slashed a $327 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson, effectively cutting more than half from the penalty that one of the corporation’s subsidiaries owes to the state.

A state judge had ordered the verdict against the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical corporation in 2011 over “deceptive marketing” of its antipsychotic drug Risperdal. The drug is manufactured by the company’s Janssen division. Janssen had sent letters to doctors promoting it as safer and more effective than competing medicine. The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office brought a civil suit against Johnson & Johnson in 2007 over violations of the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. The company appealed the ruling, calling it excessive.

The state Supreme Court ruled 4-1 on Wednesday that the three-year statute of limitations had already expired for many of the civil claims even before the original 2007 complaint. The justices lowered the new verdict to $136 million plus interest. The Attorney General’s Office had argued it did not realize the letters were deceptive at any point before the statute of limitations would have begun in 2004.

[Read more…]

Solicitor: Greenville Police justified in tasing autistic man

13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins (left) said the officers were justified in tasing Anderson given the situation and what they knew at the time (Image: Ed Jenson)

13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins (left) said the officers were justified in tasing Anderson given the situation and what they knew at the time (Image: Ed Jenson)

No charges will be filed against Greenville police officers who tased an autistic man trying to get away from them back in December.

34-year-old Tario Anderson was tased twice after officers responded to reports of shots fired in a neighborhood just southwest of downtown on Christmas Eve.  The officers said Anderson, who they did not realize was autistic, saw them and turned around to walk in the opposite direction. A police spokesman said Anderson did not respond to three different orders to stop as they began chasing him and one of the officers eventually fired his Taser. The officer tased Anderson a second time as he continued to struggle, police said.

13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins said and investigation by his office and the State Law Enforcement Division found the officers’ actions were justified. “They were investigating shots fired, which can accompany… a homicide,” Wilkins told reporters in a press conference announcing the decision Friday. “The fact that Mr. Anderson appeared evasive, a little bit erratic and fled from law enforcement officers gave them the legal right to use the force in which they chose.”

Anderson was initially charged with resisting arrest and interfering with police, but Police Chief Ken Miller said days later that investigators agreed to drop the charges when it became apparent Anderson had nothing to do with the reported gunshots. [Read more…]

State Senate votes to keep gun ban in domestic violence bill

State Sen. Tom Corbin called the bill "a big gun grab"  (FILE)

State Sen. Tom Corbin called the bill “a big gun grab” (FILE)

South Carolina senators stopped an attempt to remove a proposed gun ban from a domestic violence bill this week. But the legislation still faces days of debate on the floor next week.

Some of the bill’s opponents said they don’t think lower-tier offenders should lose their gun ownership rights. The Senate bill has 10-year ban for a person convicted of a first-degree offense and a ban of up to a year for an individual who has an order of protection filed against them.

But an amendment that would have stripped the ban language out of the bill was soundly rejected Wednesday in a 35-5 vote.

“To retain your rights, you have a responsibility,” State Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, said on the Senate floor. “You don’t just get to have them willy-nilly. You’ve got to play by the rules. You’ve got to live under the laws that your neighbors and friends have agreed upon.”

[Read more…]