A candidate for Oconee County Sheriff who was arrested and charged with plotting to kidnap a retired judge defended himself at a candidates’ forum Thursday, insisting the charges were manufactured to keep him from winning.
James Bartee spoke in a public setting at the Walhalla Civic Auditorium for the first time since his arrest on Wednesday. The other three Republican candidates in the June 12 primary (Donnie Fricks, Terry Wilson, and Mike Crenshaw) also participated.
State Law Enforcement Division agents said they arrested Bartee after he was recorded on audio agreeing to help pay for the kidnapping of a former state Circuit Court Judge James Williams, Jr. Williams had challenged Bartee’s qualifications under a South Carolina law that requires candidates for sheriff to be registered as law enforcement officers. Bartee, a former Secret Service agent, maintains he is registered.
Bartee challenged the police report of his arrest, saying it was “not the full story.” However, he said his attorney does not want him to speak publicly about it.
“I’ve heard the stories (in) the last eight months of things that have happened to different individuals and it was shocking,” he told hundreds of audience members in attendance, “Then it happened to me yesterday. So, it could happen to you. So, the bottom line… will you help me get the pigs out of the water?”
A vocal section of his supporters applauded loudly.
Bartee is free on a $10,000 bond, although he had to surrender his passport.