Suspended sheriff denies wrongdoing

Suspended sheriff denies wrongdoing


by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

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Posted on March 22, 2013 at 1:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 11:10 AM

Chesterfield County Sheriff Sam Parker, Jr., denied any wrongdoing Friday on charges of misconduct and providing contraband to prisoners.

Parker was indicted earlier this week and suspended from office by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

Parker's attorney says if anyone did anything wrong, blame deputies but not the sheriff because Parker did not witness or take part in any of the alleged crimes.

"We are adamant Sam Parker never knowingly or willfully committed a crime," said Parker's attorney John Gasser.

Prosecutors say Parker granted privileges to convicted arsonist Michael Lee and convicted drug trafficker William Skipper in exchange for the pair doing work at Parker's house and refurbishing an old armory which houses part of the sheriff's office.

Alleged perks included driving county squad cars, dining out, shopping, running errands, dating, living at the armory instead of the detention center, going to a Halloween party and giving candy to kids, plus wearing anything but prisoner jump suits.

(Click here to read the indictment)

"They did not wear any standard uniform indicating they belonged to the Chesterfield County Detention Center or Department of Corrections," said South Carolina Assistant Deputy Attorney General Heather Savitz Weiss.

Weiss says someone thought Lee worked for the sheriff's office because he wore a shirt with a sheriff office insignia.

Prosecutors also claim Parker retrofitted a county boat into his personal shrimp boat taken to the coast for fishing trips, and that the boat required repairs due to issues with saltwater.  

Gasser says Parker put $5,000 of his own money into the boat and he stored the boat and other county property at his house to save the county storage fees.

Another allegation includes Parker giving confiscated weapons to friends.

"The whole situation is a lot more complicated that what's been written in a 19-page indictment," Gasser said.

Prosecutors say they have more to go on than the word of two convicted felons and say officials warned Parker several times that his actions weren't just wrong, but illegal.

"He just continued along the same path," Weiss said.

Gasser says investigators scared and intimidated witnesses to get the answers they want.

"People have cried in my presence out of fear they would be indicted if they didn't answer a question a certain way," Gasser said.

A judge gave Parker a $150,000 personal recognizance bond, which Parker signed before walking out of the courtroom.

Parker is not allowed to contact the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office.