Desperately seeking a reason to indict and suspend embattled Greenville County sheriff Will Lewis, South Carolina governor Henry McMaster is reportedly pressing prosecutors to move forward with an adultery charge against the beleaguered law enforcement official.
“He’s asking why this hasn’t happened already seeing how Lewis has admitted (committing adultery),” one source close to the investigation told us. “He’s said if he was prosecuting the case this charge would have already been filed.”
Hold up … is adultery illegal in South Carolina?
According to South Carolina’s code of laws (§ 16-15-60), “any man or woman who shall be guilty of the crime of adultery or fornication shall be liable to indictment and, on conviction, shall be severally punished by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars or imprisonment for not less than six months nor more than one year or by both fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the court.”
Adultery is further defined by the code (§ 16-15-70) as “the living together and carnal intercourse with each other or habitual carnal intercourse with each other without living together of a man and woman when either is lawfully married to some other person.”
Obviously thousands of people are guilty of this “crime” – every day – but few are ever prosecuted. Adultery is grounds for a divorce in family court, however.
McMaster served as South Carolina’s attorney general from 2003-2011. In fact he’s currently facing scrutiny for charges he didn’t file during his time in that office. Prior to that, in the early 1980s, McMaster was U.S. attorney for the state of South Carolina.
McMaster is one of several elected officials who have called on Lewis to resign. Additionally, we’re told he has also had conversations with solicitors in the socially conservative Upstate after the prosecutor assigned to the Lewis case – Dan Johnson of the state’s fifth judicial circuit – declined to pursue the adultery angle against the sheriff.
“I realize there’s an interest in (seeing him suspended) as soon as practicable but an adultery charge is ridiculous,” a source close to the solicitor’s office told us. “It’s on the books, yes, but the investigation into the sheriff needs to be allowed to run its course.”
Sources close to McMaster disputed the seriousness of his appeal, claiming it was merely “one option” discussed in private to get Lewis out of office. They also denied that the governor had communicated his thoughts on the case directly to prosecutors.
How did we get here?
Whew … let’s rewind the tape, shall we?
On August 31, this news site published an exclusive report detailing seismic allegations leveled against Lewis by his 23-year-old former subordinate Savannah Nabors (below).
(Click to view)
“He’s a church-going man, strong in his faith,” the former sheriff’s office employee wrote in a since-deleted blog post. “You think he could never be capable of something so manipulative, so hypocritical. The man that you think is legal, ethical, and moral is anything but those things.”
Specifically, Nabors accused Lewis of drugging and raping her during a business trip to Charlotte, N.C. in March of this year. These claims prompted an investigation by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – news of which was also exclusively reported by this news site.
That investigation (which is multi-jurisdictional given the North Carolina connection) is ongoing … and reportedly making significant progress. Specifically, we’re told “multiple interviews” have been conducted in connection with the Lewis case.
We’re also told financial records related to a pending forensic audit of the Greenville County sheriff’s office are part of the ongoing probe.
“Alleged misappropriation, improper co-mingling … it’s a lot,” one source close to the investigation told us.
Last month we broke the biggest news yet related to this case – the filing of Nabors’ bombshell lawsuit against Lewis. In her pleading, Nabors offered details regarding the alleged sexual assault – as well as numerous audio recordings in which the sheriff discussed his plans to defraud Greenville County taxpayers in the furtherance of an affair with her.
Lewis, 42, has denied drugging or raping Nabors. He has, however, acknowledged what he described as a “consensual relationship” with his former subordinate.
Our view on all this?
It certainly sounds as though the investigation into Lewis is proceeding as it should – and focusing on what it should be focused on. While this probe may take longer than some would like (particularly in light of the various jurisdictional entanglements), we don’t believe faux reform or gimmickry are substitutes for diligent police work and informed prosecutorial decision-making.
Let investigators and prosecutors do their jobs, in other words.
Lewis will get what’s coming to him soon enough, we believe.
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