October 1, 2014

Spartanburg cross-country coach charged with DUI while driving team

Spartanburg High School (Image: Spartanburg District 7)

Spartanburg High School (Image: Spartanburg District 7)

An assistant cross-country coach at Spartanburg High School has been relieved of her duties after her DUI arrest that occurred while she was driving several athletes to a meet in the Charleston area.

Spartanburg School District 7 said in a statement Monday that Dedra Kiser had been placed on administrative leave while the September 26 incident is investigated. District officials said Kiser was driving seven members of Spartanburg’s girls’ cross-country team to an event when she was pulled over by a state Highway Patrol trooper in North Charleston.

The trooper reported that he stopped the school district’s SUV after a Goose Creek police officer spotted it “swerving” on Interstate 26. The trooper said Kiser smelled of alcohol, but denied drinking. She failed a field sobriety test and refused to take a breathalyzer test, according to the incident report.

She was charged with driving under the influence and with child endangerment.

The athletes were taken to a Charleston station until parents could make the three-hour drive from Spartanburg to pick them up. The Spartanburg Herald-Journal reports that head coach Jack Todd met with parents and the runners that night and they decided to continue with the meet on Saturday.

Lawsuit claims DSS placed teen with man who later raped her

DSSA lawsuit filed this month by a Georgetown County couple claims that caseworkers at the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) negligently placed a female teen in the custody of a middle-aged male neighbor – who proceeded to repeatedly rape her over several months.

The suit filed by Myrtle Beach attorney Bill Luse claims case workers placed the 13-year-old (the complaint refers to her as “Jane Doe”) in the care of 42-year-old neighbor Rhett Tison in June 2011. Tison was arrested 15 month later on several charges, including criminal sexual conduct with a minor and committing a lewd act on a minor. While the warrants don’t identify the victim, Luse said it was “Jane Doe.”

The lawsuit’s filing was first reported by the Associated Press on Saturday.

Luse said DSS caseworkers did not follow agency’s own procedures after an abuse allegation was initially filed against the teen’s parents. The details of that original allegation are not mentioned in the lawsuit. The attorney did not wish to comment on it.

DSS policies normally require that relatives be given priority in custody cases and the girl’s mother wanted her to stay with an uncle in Michigan, according to the complaint.

Tison also was not certified as a foster parent in South Carolina, the attorney said. He did not have any previous criminal history when DSS placed the teen at his home, but Luse called the agency’s decision inappropriate nevertheless. [Read more...]

Harrell released on $18,000 bond

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (File)

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (File)

A state circuit judge has set an $18,000 personal recognizance bond for suspended House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

Harrell appeared in a Richland County courtroom for the Monday hearing. He told reporters afterwards. “I don’t have anything I want to say at this time.”

In addition to the bond, Harrell will not be allowed to travel outside of South Carolina. However, Judge John Hayes did allow an exception for the Speaker to travel to the University of South Carolina’s football game in Kentucky on Saturday.

Harrell was suspended as House Speaker earlier this month after a Richland County grand jury indicted him on nine counts related to misusing campaign funds and hiding it from state ethics officials.

State prosecutors claim Harrell repeatedly used campaign funds towards his plane and for paying a secretary at his insurance agency. The indictments also claim Harrell filed false documentation with the state to hide those purchases.

The Speaker waived his arraignment, meaning he did not enter a formal plea to each charge. However, he has repeatedly insisted in the past they he did knowingly violate the law and did not benefit personally from the funds.

Man sentenced to death a second time for Myrtle Beach officer’s shooting

A man was sentenced to death a second time on Saturday for killing a Myrtle Beach police officer 12 years ago.

36-year-old Luzenski Cottrell had received a similar sentence back in 2005, but the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned his death sentence a few years later. The court ruled that jurors should have been given the opportunity to consider the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Cottrell was tried again last week. The Myrtle Beach Sun News reported a new jury reached the same death penalty decision on Saturday. Circuit Judge Larry Hyman ordered Cottrell’s execution to be scheduled for November 24, but that date will almost certainly be delayed by legal appeals.

It’s the first death sentence handed down by a state jury since March, when an Upstate trial ended with the sentence for a Chesnee man accused of murdering an 8-year-old girl. Prior to that, no death sentences had been handed down since 2010.  South Carolina has not carried out an execution since 2011.

Cottrell is accused of shooting and killing 28-year-old officer Joe McGarry in 2002. McGarry and another officer had stopped Cottrell outside a doughnut shop to question him about another murder committed the previous month. According to the other officer and other witnesses, McGarry began struggling with Cottrell before the suspect shot the officer in the face.

Although the Supreme Court reversed his conviction in the officer’s shooting, Cottrell was already serving life in prison for a murder which occurred a month before McGarry’s killing.

Harrell bond hearing scheduled for Monday

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (File)

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (File)

Indicted SC House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, will have a bond hearing on Monday morning.

Harrell was suspended as House Speaker after a Richland County grand jury indicted him on nine counts related to misusing campaign funds and hiding it from state ethics officials.

The bond hearing is scheduled for 9:00 on September 29 at the Richland County Judicial Center. Circuit Judge John Hayes, III will preside over the hearing, according to a release from the 1st Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

Harrell was indicted after 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe took over grand jury proceedings from state Attorney General Alan Wilson following months of legal proceedings. The suspended Speaker has repeatedly insisted he did not knowingly violate state ethics laws.

State Rep. Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville, has taken over Harrell’s duties as Acting Speaker since September 11.