LEXINGTON (WACH) - Lexington County Sheriff James Metts has been charged by a federal grand jury in a 10-count indictment.
According to the indictment, Metts accepted bribes from friends in return for using his position and power to interfere with the proper identification and processing of certain illegal aliens detained at the Lexington County Detention Center.
Two other men, former Lexington councilman Danny Frazier and Greg Leon, have both been charged by the state grand jury with bribing Metts
In the almost 30 page indictment, it is alleged Metts had telephone conversations with both Danny Frazier and Greg Leon beginning on September 6, 2011. The indictment states that on multiple occasions, Greg Leon had an illegal alien employee who had gotten arrested and taken to the Lexington County Detention Center. The indictment says Metts assisted in getting the illegal employee out of custody without fully identifying the employee or entering the employee into the ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) system. ICE is an investigative agency that enforces federal immigration laws as part of its homeland security mission.
All three men are being charged with conspiring to use a cellphone to facilitate an unlawful activity (bribery). All three are also charged with using a cellphone to defraud the citizens of Lexington County of their â??right to honest servicesâ??. The men are also being charged with obstructing the law by not allowing the illegal aliens to be processed.
"Public corruption at any level will not be tolerated,â?? said United States Attorney Bill Nettles. â??These indictments are a product of a new team at the United States Attorneyâ??s Office whose goal is to use an unprecedented level of cooperation with state and federal agencies in routing out public corruption and returning public trust to the people.â??
Metts is facing several charges, including conspiracy to violate federal law and interfere with government function, conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens and the use of interstate wire to defraud the citizens of Lexington County.
â??These indictments are the product of close cooperation among the Attorney Generalâ??s Office, the U.S. Attorneyâ??s Office, SLED, the FBI and other agencies,â?? Attorney General Alan Wilson said. â??This ongoing federal and state partnership demonstrates our commitment to prosecuting public corruption wherever it is found.â??
Lexington County clerk of court Beth Carrigg released a statement about the developments late Tuesday afternoon.
â??I think it's an unfortunate set of circumstances, not only for the longest serving sheriff in SC but also for the community as a whole,â?? said Carigg.
Governor Nikki Haley issued an executive order suspending Metts as Sheriff and appointed Alfred "Lewis McCarty as acting Sheriff.
McCarty is a life long resident of Lexington and began his carrear in 1964 as a patrolman in West Columbia.
According to his resume McCarty was appointed assistant sheriff of Lexington County in 1973.
McCarty released a statement about being appointed assistant sheriff of Lexington County.
"I am honored that the Governor has entrusted me with this responsibility and I look forward to resuming my relationship with the fine Staff & Officers of this Department and continuing our positive alliances with other Agencies and their Staff.
We have great people employed here and we will maintain the highest professional standards this Department has been associated with in the past. I look forward to working with each and every one of you. My number one priority is maintaining integrity and public confidence in this Department," said McCarty.
Metts has been the Lexington County Sheriff for more than 40 years.
In 1972, he became the youngest sheriff ever elected in the U.S.
Metts was the first South Carolina sheriff to assign a team of deputies to specifically conduct traffic enforcement patrols aimed at deterring motorists from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Metts earned national recognition in 1985, when he led the largest manhunt in South Carolina history. He coordinated a law enforcement task force that included three state agencies and the FBI in the search for serial killer Larry Gene Bell, who kidnapped and later killed two girls in Lexington and Richland counties.
Metts faces up to 40 years in prison and $1 million in fines if convicted of the charges he is facing.
In the same indictment the Attorney Generalâ??s Office announced a state grand jury has charged former South Congaree Police Chief Jason Amodio with misconduct in office.