Gov. Henry McMaster has suspended the sheriff of South Carolina’s most populous county after the sheriff’s indictment for obstruction and misconduct charges Tuesday.
A grand jury returned indictments Tuesday against Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis, who has been under state investigation since last fall amid after a former employee claimed he had sex with her while she was unconscious.
The state constitution gives McMaster the ability to remove public officials from office if they are indicted for a crime involving “moral turpitude.” The governor appointed former sheriff Johnny Mack Brown as Lewis’s replacement.
The indictments are vague on specifics, but Lewis has been the subject of a State Law Enforcement Division investigation ever since a former Sheriff’s Department employee sued him. The employee Savannah Nabors accused Lewis of having sex with her in a hotel room while she was unconscious and firing her after she refused his further advances. The sheriff admitted an affair in an October press conference, but insisted the encounter was consensual.
The encounter occurred while the pair were in North Carolina for a conference. South Carolina Radio Network does not normally identify victims of sexual assault, but Nabors has posted publicly about what happened.
Attorneys representing Nabors have also released audio she recorded of a conversation with Lewis, where he pressed her to stay in his hotel room during a separate conference in Nevada. Nabors ultimately declined, but not until the sheriff offered to have the county pay for her travel arrangements.
Brown served as Greenville County sheriff for six terms, beginning in 1972. He was also appointed as U.S. Marshal for the state of South Carolina in 2002. He will be able to serve until Lewis is acquitted, or an election allows voters to choose a permanent replacement if Lewis either resigns or is found guilty.