State - Regional

Greenville Co. Sheriff Will Lewis indicted on misconduct charges

GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) -- Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis has been indicted on charges after a 7-month investigation.

According to the indictment, Will Lewis has been accused of misconduct in office and obstructing justice.

SLED has served the indictments and has provided Will Lewis with all of the papers detailing the charges. 

The 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett says the investigation is active and ongoing and additional charges are possible at some point in the future.

The solicitor's office says they are coordinating with Lewis' attorneys to establish a time to turn himself in for booking arraignment and bond setting.

Bracket said, "It is important to remember that these indictments are merely allegations and Mr. Lewis is presumed innocent until his guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law."

S.C Law Enforcement Division (SLED) officials were seen at the Greenville LEC Tuesday morning.

The S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED) launched an investigation after Sheriff Lewis’ former assistant wrote a blog detailing sexual harassment and assault allegations during her employment.

 

Sheriff Lewis admitted to having a sexual encounter with the assistant, Savanah Nabors, during a tax-payer funded trip to Charlotte.

Nabors has filed a lawsuit against Lewis and the law enforcement agency. Elected officials asked Lewis to resign amid the allegations.

Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order suspending Lewis from office and named former Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown as the interim sheriff.

During an afternoon news conference at the Greenville Marriott, McMaster introduced former Greenville County Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown as the interim sheriff.

"Under the authority, with the kinds of crimes alleged in those indictments, the governor has the authority to remove the sheriff and appoint an interim, which I have done and that is former Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown, who performed with great distinction and has the respect of not only the law community across the state, but also the people of South Carolina."

"He is totally trustworthy. He is enormously experienced and could not be a better selection, and I'm only pleased that he has agreed to accept this challenge that he has met before," McMaster said.

Speaking on the indictment of Lewis, McMaster emphasized that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and said they will continue to work with the law in this case.

"The law has its procedures and they've been followed in this case," he said. 

When asked if the indictment tarnishes trust of law enforcement, McMaster said, "I think it does tarnish trust and that's one reason that there are provisions for removal in circumstances like this."

During the news conference, Interim Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown thanked the governor for his confidence in him and for sending him back to the sheriff's office.

"I'm going home and I look forward to the challenge," Brown said. "I look forward to seeing everybody again and get the morale up at the sheriff's office, back where it should be. Governor, thank you for the confidence you have in me."

Brown said he would be heading the sheriff's office next to meet with the command staff to be updated and to see what needs to be improved upon.

"We will not try the case here, so if you are coming here today hoping that you are going to hear a bunch of details about the investigation and the evidence that supports these charges, I hate to disappoint you," 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said. "But I not only an ethical, but a moral responsibility to make sure that cases are tried in a court of law, not in a breezeway of the Marriott hotel here off Pelham Road."

"I know that you are wondering what the next step in the process is," Brackett said. "The sheriff has been charged but has not been formally arraigned. I have been in contact with the chief administrative judge for the 13th Circuit and we are arranging a hearing at 10 a.m. on Thursday -- for the sheriff to be formally arraigned on these charges, for bond to be set and so the process can begin.

Greenville County Council chairman Butch Kirven said the Greenville County Sheriff's Office needs an "experienced and mature type of leadership" and said that is what Brown will bring to the office.

"The system is working, the process is working," Kirven said. "We have an interim sheriff now, a proven leader, a man of great experience and I think we should have every confidence that we're going to have complete public safety in law enforcement in Greenville County."

As for the indictment, Kirven said he was not shocked by the news.

"I thought things would run its course," he said. "You've got the civil case, then you've got the SLED investigation that apparently SLED took quite some time and was quite thorough in their investigation and their report."

Lynn Ballard with the Greenville County Council District 26 said she's happy there will be stability in the sheriff's office.

"One person shouldn't cause people to lose trust in the whole system," Willis Meadows, Greenville County Council member, said following Lewis' indictment. "The system is good. The deputies and the people that work there, even the people in the upper administration, are good people and trying to do their job. I think they were hampered by Sheriff Lewis after allegations were made, and I think that did make a difference in what he was doing."

"I'm hoping that the sheriff's office employees can now relax, take a deep breath, can feel comfortable in doing their jobs and knowing that the person sitting in the sheriff's office is there to support them and support the department," Ballard said.

We have contacted Lewis' attorney Beattie Ashemore for comment, and he did not answer the phone.

We spoke with Lance Sheek, Greenville County Sheriff's Office general counsel, and asked him for comment on the indictment and he said he learned of the indictment from us.

"Actually, I'm hearing from the first time from you," Sheek told us. "I don't know what the charges are."

7New told Sheek the charges from the indictment and he told us, "Well, I'll got look into that. I'm learning it from you."

Savanah Nabors' attorney, Lauren Taylor, spoke with us right after the news of the indictment of Lewis and said: "I don't have any information on which specific allegations went into the indictment, but we stand by our allegations in our complaints and look forward to seeing a resolution."

The following is timeline of Lewis' career leading up to Tuesday's indictment:

  • 1998, March – Lewis starts his law enforcement career with the Greenwood Police Department
  • 2000, December  – Starts at Greenville Police
  • 2001, December – Starts at Pickens Co. Sheriff’s Office
  • 2002, November  – Starts at Greenville Co. Sheriff’s Office
  • 2011, November – Resigns from Greenville Co. Sheriff’s Office during an investigation into conduct unbecoming a deputy and unprofessional behavior. Documents show Lewis was accused of hugging and kissing a female deputy in front of other officers.
  • 2016, June – Runs as Republican against Sheriff Steve Loftis.  Two weeks later he narrowly wins runoff election against his old boss.
  • 2017, January – Takes office as Sheriff.
  • 2017, August – Savannah Nabors posts blog accusing Lewis of Sexual Assault on a work trip to Charlotte. Lewis later admitted the sexual encounter but claimed it was consensual.
  • 2018, April – Lewis is indicted on Misconduct in Office and Obstruction of Justice.

Misconduct in office indictment

William D. Lewis did, on or about January 12, 2017 through February 13, 2018, commit the crime of Misconduct in Office. During the above listed dates, William D. Lewis was the Greenville County Sheriff. As Sheriff, William D. Lewis was a public official charged with a duty of accountability owed to the public, imposed by law, and assumed by him upon entering office. William D. Lewis willfully and dishonestly failed to properly and faithfully discharge his lawful duties as the Greenville County Sheriff through a series of improper acts. William D. Lewis committed this crime in Greenville County, South Carolina; all in violation of South Carolina Common Law and Section 17-25-0030, Code of Laws of South Carolina (1976), as amended.

Obstruction of Justice Indictment

William D. Lewis did, on or about April 25, 2017 through February 13, 2018, obstruct justice in the lawful investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) into the Greenville County Sheriff's Office. William D. Lewis purposely attempted to prevent, obstruct, impeded or hinder the administration of justice. William D. Lewis committed this crime in Greenville County, South Carolina; all in violation of South Carolina Common Law and Section 17-25-0030, Code of Laws of South Carolina (1976), as amended.


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