Former Union County Sheriff Howard Wells, made famous during the Susan Smith murder trial, is going to jail. Judge Henry Floyd sentenced him and several other former public officials today at the federal courthouse in Spartanburg. Wells received 90 days in prison combined with three years of supervised release, after pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators. He must also pay a $5,000 fine and $2,500 restitution and was immediately taken into custody.
Steve Ramsey with SCRN affiliate WBCU Radio says Wells’ case was not the same as the others because it did not involve public corruption.
Former Union County Supervisor Donnie Betenbaugh was sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by three years probation. He pleaded guilty to one count of extortion, but originally faced 41 charges connected to corruption. As part of his sentence, he must take part in a substance abuse program. By his attorney’s request Betenbaugh will serve his time in the federal prison in Edgefield. He reports to the U.S. Marshall’s office Monday.
Former County Tax Assessor Willie Randall, Jr. was sentenced to four years and nine months followed by four years of probation, on conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamines. He must also participate in a drug treatment program. Lapriest Darnell Beacham was sentenced to 1 year, 1 day in federal prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release
The federal investigation first began with officials in the City of Union. Former Union Mayor Bruce Morgan and former zoning administrator Jeffrey Lawson pleaded guilty to seeking bribes and plotting to take thousands in kickbacks from building contractors. They were sentenced to federal prison last year–Morgan to almost six years, and Lawson to 12 years.
Union resident Willard Farr, who pleaded guilty to an extortion charge, was sentenced Tuesday to a year and a day in prison, for helping Morgan and Lawson extort a kickback.