FINALLY! A JUDGE WITH SOME COJONES …
By FITSNEWS || In a stunning setback for both disgraced Lexington County, S.C. Sheriff James Metts – and the U.S. Attorney prosecuting him – a federal judge has rejected the proposed plea deal that would have given him three years of probation for his alleged crimes.
Now Metts is in the unenviable position of having to stand trial on the ten-count indictment filed against him in June – while U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles is in the unenviable position of having to prosecute the man he attempted to hook up with a sweetheart deal.
It’s a mess …
Metts had agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens – for which he would have received three years probation. Details of the plea – which we previewed here – enraged many in South Carolina who believed the former Sheriff was getting preferential treatment.
U.S. district court judge Terry Wooten didn’t necessarily come out and agree with them – but he did rule that three years of probation was inconsistent with federal sentencing guidelines on the charge to which Metts agreed to plead guilty.
According to Wooten, those guidelines called for a prison sentence of anywhere between 12-16 months.
“The guidelines do not call for a probationary sentence,” Wooten said. “Conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens is a serious charge.”
Indeed … especially for a public official who took government money pledging to crack down on illegal immigration.
Metts was indicted in June by federal authorities for accepting bribes in exchange for using “his position, power, and influence as Sheriff to interfere with the proper identification and processing of certain illegal aliens detained at the Lexington County (detention center).”
He originally pleaded not guilty to the charges – and vigorously protested his innocence. Four other individuals have been indicted by S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson for their roles in the “Lexington Ring,” a cabal of crooked cops and corrupt politicians that was relentlessly exposed in 2012-13 by this website.
Meanwhile five of Metts’ subordinates were fired from their posts in the aftermath of the indictment.
For those of you new to this site, members of the “Lexington Ring” have been accused of running an illegal video poker operation based out of Lexington County, S.C. Among those indicted by Wilson? Former South Congaree police chief Jason Amodio, who was specifically accused of accepting payment “in return for seized gaming machines.” FITS was the first media outlet in the state to report on a joint state-federal raid of Amodio’s offices in May 2013 – noting that Amodio was one of the corrupt lawmen mentioned by Frazier in the audio recordings as providing protection for video poker machines run by the “Ring.”
Wilson’s office was not involved in the plea deal involving Metts, sources close to the Attorney General tell FITS.
Obviously, this website supports Wooten’s decision. Metts was getting a sweetheart deal, and just because he’s sixty-eight years old and has “the diabetes” (as it’s called in South Carolina) that doesn’t mean he should get off with no jail time.
Wooten deserves props for rejecting this deal … whatever the “sentencing guidelines” stated.
More to the point, we’re exceedingly concerned this failed plea deal is indicative of a lack of testicular fortitude (or whatever you want to call it) on the part of Nettles’ office – which is playing a starring role in the ongoing federal-state investigation of corruption at the S.C. State House. Bottom line? We don’t need prosecutors looking to cut deals, we need prosecutors looking to throw the book at corrupt politicians.
As for the forthcoming Metts’ trial, stay tuned to FITS for the latest … we’ve got some interesting scoop as it relates to how things might go down.