SC Sheriff Drama: Nikki Haley’s Hands Are Tied

OR ARE THEY? || By FITSNEWS || Far be it from us to defend S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.  Heck, the only nice thing our founding editor has said about her lately turned out to be a misquote. LOL, right? Still, when it comes to the drama surrounding Berkeley County, S.C….


|| By FITSNEWS || Far be it from us to defend S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.  Heck, the only nice thing our founding editor has said about her lately turned out to be a misquote.

LOL, right?

Still, when it comes to the drama surrounding Berkeley County, S.C. sheriff Wayne DeWitt – the cop who got drunk, smashed his government-owned vehicle into another car and led police on a 100-mile-per-hour chase – Haley’s hands are tied (and not in the fun way).

Don’t get us wrong: There’s no way DeWitt should keep his job after his drunken joy ride.  He recklessly endangered the lives of the very people he is charged with protecting – and for that, he deserves to not only lose his job but also spend some time behind bars.

Here’s the thing, though: Haley is only allowed to remove local elected officials from office in the event they are indicted on a crime of moral turpitude.

What’s “moral turpitude?”  According to South Carolina’s judicial system, it is defined as “an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellow man, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.”

And yes, that definition – part of a 1978 court case – strikes us as highly subjective.  Purposely vague, even.

Previous governors have defined moral turpitude along fairly consistent lines.  In fact Haley’s chief legal counsel Swati Patel – the one who made the decision not to suspend DeWitt – has previously defined the term as an indictment brought on a criminal charge (i.e. something bigger than a “driving under the influence” arrest).

She’s applied that standard while working for Haley, and she applied it while serving in the same role with former Gov. Mark Sanford.

DeWitt’s critics argue his crime is bigger – pointing to the fact he not only fled the scene of his alcohol-related accident, but also attempted to evade police officers in a high-speed chase.

“If that’s not moral turpitude I don’t know what is,” one Berkeley County law enforcement officer told FITS. “Nikki needs to take this guy out.”

We agree … but DeWitt was inexplicably given a pass on the “failure to stop for blue lights” charge, and beyond that the inherent vagueness of the “moral turpitude” standard has left Haley in the unenviable position of potentially setting a very bad precedent.

What do we mean by that?

Well,  obviously we don’t want an environment in which governors can arbitrarily remove local elected officials.  Lord knows there is enough state meddling in these offices as it is – and given how easy it is to get arrested these days, we’d hate to see a trumped-up arrest lead to an improper suspension.

Of course DeWitt’s situation isn’t “trumped-up.”  It’s clear he recklessly endangered his fellow citizens – and it’s also clear his reckless endangerment took place as part of his effort to evade the consequences of his actions.  Which means Haley would be forgiven for exercising circumstantial discernment and suspending him from office.

But should she?

Eh …

Absent specific statutory authority, Haley’s removal of DeWitt could create a bad precedent – conceivably opening the door to future abuse.  Bottom line?  South Carolina’s definition of “moral turpitude” needs to be much more clearly defined so as to delineate which crimes warrant a suspension from office (and removal from office upon pleading or conviction) – and which crimes don’t.

In fact we would urge the S.C. General Assembly to categorically define this term during the upcoming legislative session – so future governors aren’t put in similar situations.  In the meantime, we would encourage the citizens and leaders of Berkeley County to take whatever actions they deem necessary in the event DeWitt refuses to step down.

Pic: Travis Bell Photography


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a face in the crowd January 6, 2015 at 11:20 am

“Moral turpitude” — Balbricker!

Guest January 6, 2015 at 11:27 am

Is there a statute where the sheriff can be recalled and another election take place?

The Colonel January 6, 2015 at 11:38 am

Generally, no. Despite a push to introduce state wide recall voting,the measure was not allowed to appear on the ballot in 2012 and there is no current push to introduce “recall legislation”.

William Wallace January 6, 2015 at 1:18 pm

The American Party is promoting recall elections.
With Harrell, Ard, Ravenel, Eckstrom, the Peelers, Metts and the other corrupt Sheriffs, we are in desperate need of recall elections!

Same ol' Same ol' January 6, 2015 at 1:41 pm

So, who is able to remove someone like this? He was sworn in in private, quickly after the event so he couldn’t be removed. Is there any recourse for these situations?

The Colonel January 6, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Once he’s convicted he’s gone. If he had any honor, he’d resign. Haley could then appoint an interim

The Colonel January 6, 2015 at 11:35 am

Swati Patel?!? I thought he owed the “Deluxe Inn and Suites” in York, SC? Or was that Sweati Patel?

Gary January 6, 2015 at 11:49 am

What parent would name their kid something like that?

The Colonel January 6, 2015 at 12:00 pm

It’s actually a fairly common Indian name (Indian as in from India).

I was just being a smart ass…

Buz Martin January 6, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Swati Patel, for Sikhs or others from India, is no different from a name like Sarah Jones to the rest of us. “Sweati Patel” was a joke on the part of Colonel. Are you really so dense this has to be explained to you?

nitrat January 6, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Is that of the Hotel Motel Patels?

The Colonel January 6, 2015 at 12:59 pm


Gloiras Cheeba January 6, 2015 at 11:45 am

Presidential candidate Haley has no moral turpitude. …hahaha

Power Corrupts January 6, 2015 at 11:50 am

Had that government owned F-150 t-boned a kid on her way home from work and killed her the amount of that lawsuit would assure this Sheriff was removed from office. As for the prison time associated with wreckless homicide – he would never see the inside of the prison.

Now every deputy in Berkeley County will feel empowered to break any law they wish.

p.s. A Maudlin off-duty cop laid down a personal motorcycle yesterday afternoon. He paid with his life. An eyewitness, who at the time of the interview with the local news had no idea that the victim was a police officer, said that just before the wreck the guy was weaving in and out of traffic passing cars left and right at a high rate of speed.

Scrappy January 6, 2015 at 12:17 pm

It’s “Reckless Homicide”, not “wreckless”. What does the Mauldin Police Officer have to do with this article? Police officers have wrecks too!

jimlewisowb January 6, 2015 at 11:52 am

You have gotta lay off some of these post titles

If I am going to read s story about a woman with her hands tied, this ain’t what I want to read about

nitrat January 6, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Went to Wikipedia thinking I would find some old English Common law basis for ‘moral turpitude’. Surprisingly, it based in 19th century US immigration law. And, it is essentially the same general state definition as is quoted here..

There’s a great chart that provides more specificity. I wonder if ‘assault’ in the section on “Crimes Committed Against Person, Family Relationship, and Sexual Morality”, in regards to hitting the vehicle with occupant inside would apply? Or, ‘malicious injury to property’ in the ‘Crimes Against Property’ section?

Halfvast Conspirator January 6, 2015 at 4:14 pm

I wonder if ‘assault’ in the section on “Crimes Committed Against
Person, Family Relationship, and Sexual Morality”, in regards to hitting
the vehicle with occupant inside would apply?

Well, he did “rear-end” the car…

Nikki operates with impunity January 6, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Her hands aren’t tied. She has to make decision, as Governor. It’s either. she will, or she won’t. If she decides not to, who the hell cares? But, Nikki’s hands are never tied, she does what the fck she wants to every time.

Krazy Kat January 6, 2015 at 3:32 pm

I’m confused. Turpitude is that stuff that takes off paint, right. Damn it stinks!

Roscoe P. Coltran January 6, 2015 at 5:46 pm

Fled the scene. Where have I heard that before?

Timmy Tebow January 6, 2015 at 6:47 pm

It’s them Duke Boys!

crazyfreddie January 7, 2015 at 4:06 pm



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