Crime: Could suspended Sheriff Will Lewis return to office after his corruption trial? - - PressFrom - US
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Crime Could suspended Sheriff Will Lewis return to office after his corruption trial?

20:00  18 october  2019
20:00  18 october  2019 Source:   greenvilleonline.com

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A two-year saga related to corruption charges against embattled Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis has left the county's top elected law enforcement position in flux.

Gov. Henry McMaster suspended Lewis in April 2018, the same day the State Law Enforcement Division charged him with corruption and several months after his former assistant filed a sexual assault and harassment lawsuit against him.

In the year and a half since Lewis' suspension, Johnny Mack Brown, who served six terms as sheriff starting in 1977, has has been the interim sheriff.

But with the controversy surrounding Lewis poised to come to a head next week with the beginning of his criminal trial, the future of the Sheriff's Office hinges on a jury's decision.

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a man wearing a suit and tie: Suspended Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis listens as Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett speaks during a hearing Wednesday, October 16, 2019, where Lewis' attorney Rauch Wise filed a motion to suspend testimony from his upcoming trial. Wise said that because Lewis' former assistant says he raped her in North Carolina, testimony about that shouldn't be included for his trial in Greenville County next week because it was outside of Greenville County's jurisdiction. Brackett said the jury would need to know about what happened in North Carolina in order to understand the case.© MATT BURKHARTT/Staff Suspended Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis listens as Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett speaks during a hearing Wednesday, October 16, 2019, where Lewis' attorney Rauch Wise filed a motion to suspend testimony from his upcoming trial. Wise said that because Lewis' former assistant says he raped her in North Carolina, testimony about that shouldn't be included for his trial in Greenville County next week because it was outside of Greenville County's jurisdiction. Brackett said the jury would need to know about what happened in North Carolina in order to understand the case.

If Lewis is convicted or pleads guilty —

Gov. McMaster, who has called for the suspended sheriff to resign, would be required under state law to immediately remove him from office.

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If Lewis is removed from office before Nov. 3, there would be a special election to fill the seat until the regularly scheduled election in 2020, according to Conway Belangia, Director of the Greenville County Voter Registration and Elections  office.

In the event Lewis leaves office after Nov. 3, Brown  could continue as interim sheriff for the next year.

If Lewis is acquitted —

He can return to office or resign.

Lewis' lawyer, Rauch Wise, told the Greenville News on Friday that his client is not commenting on his post-trial plans, but, Lewis has consistently rebuffed public - and private - calls to resign.

The same month Savanah Nabors, Lewis' former assistant, filed a sexual assault and harassment lawsuit against him, Greenville County Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for his resignation.

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And in a secret recording obtained and reported on by The Greenville News, Lewis is heard rejecting an offer from state Rep. Bruce Bannister for a potential $100,000 buyout from the county to leave office.

In that recording, which Lewis admitted to creating, the sheriff said he did not plan to resign under the shroud of a sexual assault allegation and wanted the SLED investigation to run its course.

Lewis hopes to increase his pension

He also told Bannister that while he had no intention of running for the office again in 2020, he planned on finishing out his term, in part to bolster his police retirement plan.

In South Carolina, law enforcement retirement payouts are calculated using an officer's highest salary over a certain duration. In the recording, Lewis told his attorney Wally Fayssoux he was "one quarter" away from his sheriff's salary meeting the necessary threshold.

"Then I can go kick back in some small department and write traffic tickets until my retirement rolls in," he said. "And then I'll retire with my highest four quarters, which is going to be somewhere around 90 grand."

Lewis' retirement plan is frozen while he's under suspension, according to the state Criminal Justice Academy.

At a hearing Tuesday, 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett, who's prosecuting the case, said he only plans to pursue two misconduct indictments that allege Lewis misused public funds and power to pursue an adulterous relationship.

Under state law, misconduct in office is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine, 1 year in prison, and automatic removal from office.

This article originally appeared on The Greenville News: Could suspended Sheriff Will Lewis return to office after his corruption trial?

Mugshot of convicted Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis released .
(Video above: Judge reads sentence) The SC Department of Corrections released a mugshot Sunday of convicted Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis. Convicted Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis was led away from the courtroom in handcuffs Friday morning after he was sentenced to one year in prison. Judge G. Thomas Cooper Jr. sentenced Lewis to the maximum sentence for the charge of misconduct of a public officer. “My sentence unfortunately for you is going to give you a lot of time to think about this. Put into perspective your life with your family, your community, your God. I’d advise you not to squander or waste that time,” Cooper said.

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