Suspended Lexington County Sheriff James Metts pleaded “not guilty” to bribery charges in federal court Tuesday morning.
He is accused of accepting bribes from a Midlands restaurant owner in exchange for making sure that businessman’s illegal immigrant employees were never reported to the Department of Homeland Security. Gov. Nikki Haley suspended him from office shortly after the indictment was handed down by a grand jury on June 17, appointing Metts’ former second-in-command Lewis McCarty to replace him.
Metts was released on a $100,000 bond following Tuesday’s hearing.
According to an indictment released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Tuesday, Metts received bribes from friends to interfere with the identification and processing of illegal aliens who were being held at the Lexington County Detention Center. Some of the charges against the Republican include violating federal law, using an interstate facility for bribery, and conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens.
Metts’ attorney Sherri Lydon has said her client is not guilty and asked for a lower bond, arguing Metts was not a flight risk.
The State Grand Jury last month also returned indictments against former Lexington Town Councilman Danny Frazier and Midlands businessman Gregorio Leon, who owns the local San Jose Mexican Restaurant chain. The indictment alleges Frazier worked as a middleman to Leon, contacting the sheriff on four different occasions when one of Leon’s employees were brought to the Lexington County Detention Center on immigration violations. The indictments state that phone records show Frazier contacted Metts after each detainment and would arrange for Metts to receive cash in exchange for his help.