GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office has denied News13 access to an incident report for the arrest of a man who was named a person of interest in 2012 in connection with the disappearance of Brittanee Drexel.
Denying access to the report violates South Carolina’s public records law, according to Jay Bender, a retired law professor at the University of South Carolina and an attorney for the South Carolina Broadcaster’s Association.
Raymond Douglas Moody, 62, of Georgetown, was arrested on May 4 and charged with obstructing justice. It’s unclear if the arrest is in connection with the Drexel case.
News13 asked for the incident report for the arrest and after a back-and-forth with the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office, we were denied the ability to see the report.
On Tuesday, Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Jason Lesley said in an email the report is “not approved for release.”
On Wednesday, News13 drove to the sheriff’s office to inspect the report, which is our right under South Carolina’s public records law, and Lesley told us “You’ll have to go to court to get it.”
“It’s my conclusion that the police take great delight in violating the law with respect to public records,” Bender said. “For the sheriff’s office to tell you you have to go to court to get a record that the general assembly says is public is an insult to democracy. It’s another indication that when these people get elected or appointed, they conclude they are our rulers and not our representatives.”
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Trips to the courthouse and the solicitor’s office were made and no one could provide the report.
“Well, if there’s information that would prejudice a prospective law enforcement action, it can be redacted from the report, but for the entire report to disappear is a violation of the law because the law says quite clearly that if there is information that may be redacted, then redaction is not mandatory,” Bender said. “If there’s information that may be redacted, the remainder of the public record is to be made public.”
News13 asked the sheriff’s office for a response to what Bender said about violating the law, and we received no response.
Moody’s arrest is not listed on the South Carolina public index as of Wednesday afternoon, though several other arrests from the same day are listed. News13 is working to find out why Moody’s arrest is not one of the 14 listed.
News13 reached out to the FBI last week and was told no information could be released due to an ongoing investigation.
Moody was named a person of interest in 2012 but was never charged in connection with the case, according to previous reporting. It’s unclear whether Moody is still considered a person of interest in Drexel’s disappearance.
Drexel was reported missing in 2009.