Lawyer for suspended sheriff: Indictments aren’t specific

June 17, 2019

LAURENS, S.C. (AP) — Several indictments against a suspended sheriff in South Carolina should be thrown out because they aren’t specific, a defense lawyer told a judge Monday.

The lack of names or details hampers the defense for suspended Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis because there are already thousands of pages of records and dozens of witnesses who could be potential victims, defense attorney Rauch Wise said during a hearing in Laurens County.

For example, Lewis ought to know which sheriff’s office employees accuse him of threats instead of having to prepare for any of them showing up at trial, Wise said.

“He’s entitled to specially know what they are talking about, and I don’t think that is asking too much,” Wise said.

Lewis faces charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office. The indictments said he intimidated witnesses in a State Law Enforcement Division investigation, abused his power over sheriff’s office employees and misused public money and assets.

Many of the charges surround Lewis’ pursuit of an affair. Prosecutors and public records show he hired a woman as his assistant for $62,000 a year and issued her a new county car she did not need even though she was 23 years old with little experience.

The woman later sued Lewis, saying he drugged her and had sex with her without her consent in a Charlotte, North Carolina, hotel room. That lawsuit was settled out of court.

Wise also argued the misuse of public resources indictment should be thrown out because of lack of specifics, saying without details, it could be something as simple as calling someone outside of public business on a county cellphone or giving them a ride.

Prosecutor Leslie Robinson said the indictments include needed details and allow prosecutors to pursue the cases the way the evidence leads. She said while sheriffs do have a broad range of power to hire and fire workers, they cannot break their oath of office or federal labor laws.

“His power is not unlimited,” Robinson said.

Circuit Judge G. Thomas Cooper asked several questions as Robinson spoke, asking why she couldn’t put specific information in the indictments to “at least give them an idea of which of those pages and pages and pages you plan to go forward on.”

Cooper was assigned to the case along with prosecutors from York County because Lewis has so many connections in Greenville County.

Lewis was elected sheriff in November 2016 and was indicted in April 2018.

Cooper said he would read briefs from both sides and make a ruling later.