Sheriff on trial; prosecutor says he hired woman to get sex
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina sheriff hired a young woman as his personal assistant for more than $60,000 a year to persuade her into a sexual relationship, prosecutors said at his trial.
Suspended Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis testified Wednesday that the sex was consensual and while cheating on his wife was immoral, he did nothing illegal.
Lewis is in a courtroom in his own county this week, his law enforcement career and even his freedom at stake as his trial on two counts of misconduct in office unfolds. His wife is sitting beside him as salacious details of his private life spill off the witness stand.
South Carolina has a broad misconduct law, which allows prosecutors to pursue charges against any public officials who do not properly and faithfully perform their jobs. The prosecutors in Lewis’ case said the sheriff misused county money to hire a woefully unqualified person for an unnecessary position and then used county resources such as his cellphone to continue the relationship.
Lewis adamantly denied doing anything wrong, pointing out a county audit done after he was indicted came clean and saying Savanah Nabors was qualified and worked hard. He testified the woman hired to do the job after Nabors quit was paid more
“It’s evidently clear that I was dumb in pursuing a relationship with a girl who was not my wife,” Lewis said, looking directly at the jury.
Lewis’ lawyer, Rauch Wise, suggested the state would not have charged Lewis if he failed at his job in other ways, like showing up for work 30 minutes late every day, and wanted to punish him for cheating on his wife.
“The only things the state uses to make those things seem evil, sinister or bad is he had an affair,” Wise said in his opening statement.
Lewis hired Nabors after his 2016 election, paying the then 22-year-old $62,000 a year and giving her a county vehicle and other perks to groom her into a sexual relationship, prosecutor Willy Thompson said in his opening statement.
Nabors testified Tuesday, saying Lewis made her feel honored and important, having the county buy her a fitted bullet proof vest and giving her an assigned parking space in the crowded sheriff’s office parking lot.
Other deputies testified the sheriff and assistant giggled and seemed overly friendly. Lewis told them Nabors was a family friend and babysat his children. Nabors said she only knew Lewis through her job as a paralegal and thought of him like a big brother.
Shortly after taking office, Nabors said Lewis invited her to a county budget retreat in Charlotte, North Carolina, drinking with her at a hotel and talking about problems he was having with his wife until she passed out or fell asleep. She said she woke up, and he was on top of her.
Nabors testified she didn’t tell anyone at first and never sought criminal charges because she felt sick and blamed herself and later a lawyer she hired suggested it was a bad idea.
“Having sex with my boss was not what I signed up for,” Nabors testified.
Lewis briefly described the encounter much differently when questioned by his lawyer, saying Nabors snuggled up to him, kissed him and the two quickly moved to consensual sex.
“A million things went through my mind. I knew I had violated my oath to my wife,” Lewis said, as his wife sat at the defense table. “I was very, very bothered by the fact I had cheated on my wife.”
Other witnesses include deputies who testified that Lewis let Nabors, who had no police training, into crime scenes, including a shooting that involved a police officer. They testified she also received special training at BMW’s driving center in nearby Greer and went out on SWAT calls.
“How do you explain taking a civilian into a crime scene?” testified Greenville County Sheriff’s Maj. Ty Miller, the highest-ranking member on the force who Nabors eventually confided her relationship before writing a blog about it.
Nabors taped hours of her conversations with Lewis, including his efforts to get her to go to a sheriff’s conference in Reno, Nevada, where they would share a room. Lewis also told her in the recorded conversations that he would trade all his command staff for her.
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