November 30, 2015

Report: Planned Parenthood shooter lived in SC earlier in his life

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told the AP that the public can make “inferences” about the motive due to “where it took place” (Image: CSPD)

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told the AP that the public can make “inferences” about the motive due to “where it took place” (Image: CSPD)

A man accused of killing three people and injuring nine others at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic last week has ties to South Carolina, according to numerous media reports.

57-year-old Robert Dear is charged with killing two civilians and a police officer at a Colorado Springs clinic on November 27. Colorado Springs Police have not yet given a motive for Dear’s actions, although the city’s mayor told the Associated Press the public can make “inferences” due to “where (the attack) took place.”

The New York Times tracked down Dear’s ex-wife — who lives in Goose Creek. The woman told the paper that Dear was originally from Charleston, but had grown up in Louisville before moving back to the Lowcountry. His last known addresses were in Colorado and near Asheville, N.C.

Dear got married in the late 1980s and eventually moved to Colleton County. Deputies there provided the online news site Buzzfeed with an incident report that showed the pair had a domestic incident at their Walterboro home in 1997 (South Carolina Radio Network has decided not to name the ex-wife for this reason). According to the incident report, Dear’s then-wife told the responding deputy that her husband had locked her out of their home, then hit her and pushed her out a window when she tried to enter.

She considered the incident minor and did not want to press charges. The couple divorced three years later.

In 2002, Dear was arrested and charged as a “peeping Tom,” according to court documents. Another Colleton County incident report said Dear’s married female neighbor had caught him hiding in her bushes and looking into her home on two separate occasions. The charge was dismissed after a restraining order was issued, the records stated.

Dear eventually moved to Black Mountain, North Carolina.

He is scheduled to appear in court on Monday. Dear was being held without bond over the weekend, according to Mayor Suthers.

SC prison system bringing in fewer nonviolent offenders, director says

Department of Corrections director Bryan Stirling (Image: SCETV)

Department of Corrections director Bryan Stirling (Image: SCETV)

The director of South Carolina’s prison system says his agency has reduced its inmate population since a sentencing reform law passed five years ago, but still faces rising costs with those who remain.

Department of Corrections director Bryan Stirling told a legislative oversight committee this week South Carolina has around 20,800 inmates in the system now, down from 25,000 in 2010. The Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act passed in 2010 repealed many of the mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses and loosened the restrictions on parole supervision, among other changes.

The number of inmates who are being admitted into state corrections facilities for “nonviolent” offenses has dropped by nearly 40 percent from 11,100 in 2009 to around 6,700 in 2014, Stirling told the Sentencing Reform Oversight Committee.

However, Stirling told a legislative panel this week that the violent offense inmates are getting older — and require the care that comes with age. “That population is quite expensive to keep up with medically and everything,” he said. “As we all know, when folks get older, the medical costs go up. We have to do what we can do because there’s a constitutional standard that we have to meet.”

Stirling said there are more than 2,100 inmates over age 55 in the system. ”

Jon Ozmint — who led the Department of Corrections under former Gov. Mark Sanford — said he believes the state Board of Paroles and Pardons needs to consider an inmate’s health condition when granting a conditional release. “We’ve got everybody buying into the intent of sentencing reform except that (Parole) board,” he told the committee. The eight-member board appointed mostly by the legislature is tasked with approving or revoking paroles and pardons, as well as recommending potential pardons.

The state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services (PPP) director Jerry Adger estimated his agency has saved nearly $25 million over the past five years by releasing more inmates. The 2010 law allows PPP to reinvest up to 35 percent of those savings into its agency.

Florida developer gets 3 years probation for role in SC State kickback case

A Florida developer will avoid prison for his role in a corruption and bribery scandal at South Carolina State University, after a federal judge agreed his cooperation and lack of criminal record made three years probation an appropriate sentence.

Richard Zahn had pleaded guilty two years ago to wire fraud and attempted bribery for his role in promising kickbacks to two SC State officials in exchange for the school buying land that Zahn owned. Even though his plea came in 2013, prosecutors had waited until after criminal cases were resolved against former SC State Board of Trustees chairman Jonathan Pinson and others.

The State newspaper reported Monday District Judge David Norton accepted arguments from Zahn’s attorneys, who argued the developer had cooperated with investigators and even testified during Pinson’s trial last year. In addition to the probation, the developer must also fund a $25,000 scholarship for a student at South Carolina’s only public historically-black college.

Pinson, who denies intentionally violating the law, was eventually convicted on 29 counts and sentenced to five years in prison for agreeing to accept Zahn’s bribe while at SC State, as well as misusing government grant funds in a Columbia housing project and a Marion County diaper factory. He remains out on bond while his sentence is appealed.

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Authorities ID man killed after shootout with Cayce officers

Lexington County investigators have now identified a man killed in a gunfire exchange with two Cayce public safety officers Tuesday morning.

The county coroner’s office said Tuesday that 21-year-old Demetrius Bryant died from two bullet wounds to his upper body he suffered earlier that day. Both of the officers were also hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries, with investigators saying one had suffered a minor bullet wound.

Cayce Department of Public Safety officials have released little information on the incident so far. A spokesman said the two officers were trying to arrest Bryant for a “drug-related” charge when he resisted and eventually fired at them. One of the officers was struck, according to the spokesman. The other officer had already sustained injuries before the gunshots, although the extent of those injuries was not clear Tuesday. Both were treated at a nearby hospital. Their names have not been released.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our two officers at this time,” Mayor Elise Partin said in a statement. “They and all of our Cayce Public Safety Officers protect and serve our Cayce community. We are incredibly thankful for each of them!”

Bryant has pending charges for unlawfully carrying a pistol in June and a simple marijuana charge in March.

The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating, as it does for most officer-involved shootings in South Carolina. The agency said this was the 45th officer-involved shooting in South Carolina in 2015. The highest number of such shootings since the state began keeping track is 46 in 2012.

Convicted legislator appeals 3-year prison sentence

Former State Rep. Thad Viers (Courtesy: SCETV)

Former State Rep. Thad Viers (Courtesy: SCETV)

A former Myrtle Beach legislator is appealing his three-year prison sentence.

Former State Rep. Thad Viers began serving a 37-month sentence in October for a money laundering conviction. Prosecutors had targeted Viers for his role as attorney in a paving contractor’s scheme to hide assets from a bonding company.

That contractor Marlon Weaver was on the hook after his company defaulted on a state highway contract and the insurer stepped in with a $6 million bond. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Viers had accepted a $500,000 cashier’s check to hide some of the contractor’s investments and ownership in a marina as the bonding company sought repayment.

The Myrtle Beach Sun-News reported Wednesday the Republican’s attorneys filed the appeal this week. Besides the prison sentence, the former lawmaker was also ordered to repay $875,000 and serve three additional years probation. Viers had agreed to plead guilty in April in exchange for other charges against him — including one count of lying to an investigating IRS agent — to be dropped. He apologized in a statement the time, saying he did not ask the questions he should have but that, “As a man I must take responsibility for my actions and am doing so.”

Viers served in the House for a decade until he resigned after being charged with harassing an ex-girlfriend in 2012. He later pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment in that case and was sentenced to 60 days in prison, to be served on weekends, and a year of probation. The money laundering accusations are alleged to have occurred two years before his resignation, although his statements to the IRS occurred in March 2014.

Attorney Trey Cockrell argued Viers was a minor player in the scheme and got little financial benefit, noting that Weaver himself had received a lesser punishment.