A Richland County grand jury has returned a misconduct in office charge against a former South Carolina legislator accused of inappropriately touching a female staffer earlier this year.
Nelson Hardwick resigned his Horry County district in May — the same day the House Speaker’s Office said its investigation deemed the accusations “valid.” The Republican had represented the Surfside Beach and Murrells Inlet areas in the House for nearly 10 years. His attorney previously denied the accusations against him.
The grand jury handed down the indictment on October 22, but the state Attorney General’s Office did not announce the finding until Monday. The indictment states Hardwick “did abuse his position and power over staff of the House of Representatives to lure an employee to his office and inappropriately touch her against her will” in late April.
Hardwick’s attorney has previously said she believes the public will eventually see her client was “falsely accused.” “We all know that politics can sometimes be dirty, and I am concerned that some people want to hurt Nelson,” attorney Henrietta Golding wrote in a statement.
The former lawmaker could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted and given the maximum sentence.
Voters in September elected Surfside Beach attorney Russell Fry to fill out the last year of Hardwick’s current term.