Residents of Greenville County, South Carolina who are eager to see embattled sheriff Will Lewis suspended from office are going to have to wait a bit longer than they expected to see if that happens.
That’s because the solicitor responsible for reviewing a law enforcement report on Lewis’ conduct has found himself at the center of a separate investigation into his own conduct.
S.C. fifth circuit solicitor Dan Johnson – whose issues were first reported on by this news site a month ago – is the subject of a preliminary inquiry currently being conducted by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
That’s the same agency conducting an investigation into a myriad of allegations against Lewis (news of which broke exclusively on this site).
Johnson is also the subject of a steady drip of leaks based on information contained in a document dump posted to the website PAPR.org – the home page of a group called Public Access to Public Records. That organization boasts of its commitment to “shining a light on the actions of South Carolina public officials and agencies,” but it appears to be a front for prominent Columbia, S.C. Democratic attorney Dick Harpootlian – who has a longstanding beef with the fifth circuit solicitor.
Irrespective of the origin of the documents, they have exposed a pattern of exorbitant and questionable spending on Johnson’s part.
As we reported last month, taxpayers were forced to shell out thousands of dollars on a host of dubious expenses, including swanky parties, cab and Uber rides, club memberships and hotel rooms.
Not only that, as longtime readers of this news site no doubt recall, Johnson has had some issues in the past involving questionable conduct with female subordinates.
Accordingly, we called on Johnson to recuse himself from his role as the presiding prosecutor in Lewis’ case.
“Johnson should avoid even a hint of hypocrisy by allowing another solicitor to handle the Lewis inquiry,” we wrote.
That hasn’t happened yet … but Johnson may not have a say in the matter.
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As we noted last week, S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson (above) reportedly covets the Lewis investigation – a high-profile inquiry in the heart of the “Republican” Upstate that could provide a significant boost to his reelection bid.
Will Wilson take the case?
“We won’t make a decision on that until we get the results of SLED’s preliminary inquiry into solicitor Johnson’s spending,” Wilson spokesman Robert Kittle told us.
In other words an investigation that was reportedly nearing completion (the one into Lewis) is now being held up by an investigation that’s just beginning (the one into Johnson).
And the end result may be the attorney general getting both cases …
For those of you unfamiliar with the Lewis drama, he is currently facing a criminal investigation and civil lawsuit stemming from his alleged sexual assault of 23-year-old Savannah Nabors, a former employee of the Greenville County sheriff’s office.
Nabors first made her allegations against the 42-year-old lawman in a blog post published in late August.
“I know you think you know him, because I thought I did too,” the former sheriff’s office employee wrote in the since-deleted entry. “He’s a stand-up man, a family man that loves his wife and kids, protects his community, and seeks justice. He’s a church-going man, strong in his faith. 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 taxpayer-funded business trip to Charlotte, N.C. last March. Those allegations remain unproven, but audio tapes submitted by Nabors in connection with her lawsuit make it clear Lewis attempted to use taxpayer resources in the furtherance of an affair with her.
And then tried to cover it up …
Upon hearing those tapes, we called on Lewis to step down.
“It is abundantly clear that Lewis plotted to defraud taxpayers as part of his efforts to advance an affair with Nabors – secure in the knowledge that no one would ever find out about his scheming,” we wrote. “That strikes us as a textbook example of misconduct in office. Whether Lewis is ever formally indicted or convicted on such a charge remains to be seen, but Nabors’ audio tapes make it painfully clear he conspired to spend tax money on their ‘relationship’ and hide that expense from the people who elected him.”
A flood of politicians – and Lewis’ employers on county council – echoed those sentiments, but despite some creative attempts to get the first-term law man out of office there is no statutory method for removing him.
Time is on Lewis’ side, too … and he’s been taking advantage of it.
Delays in the investigation have allowed him to restore some of his tarnished image, including the successful implementation of a massive child predator/ sex trafficker sting early this month that netted more than forty arrests.
Lewis has seen a “noticeable uptick” in public support in the aftermath of that raid, sources close to the sheriff’s office told us.
Is it possible the embattled sheriff could survive this scandal?
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