For the past few months, the case of embattled Greenville County, South Carolina sheriff Will Lewis has been almost exclusively focused on the man who was supposed to prosecute him – and with good reason.
Now the focus is shifting back to Lewis, though … in a big way.
Not only has the scandal-scarred sheriff’s case been taken off of Johnson’s desk (and forwarded to the desk of sixteenth circuit solicitor Kevin Brackett), but we’re told the ongoing criminal investigation into Lewis’ conduct has borne significant fruit.
Numerous sources familiar with the status of the investigation tell us a mountain of evidence has been amassed against the first-term sheriff – documenting in meticulous detail multiple instances of harassment, misconduct in office, misappropriation of public funds and obstruction of justice. In fact, one of the sources told us Lewis and his ethically challenged attorney – Lance Sheek – conspired to engage in a “pattern of obstruction and intimidation” within the Greenville County sheriff’s office in the aftermath of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) launching its probe of Lewis last September.
News of that investigation – like most of the big developments in the Lewis case – broke exclusively on this site.
Reached for comment on Friday, SLED spokespersons Thom Berry and Kathryn Richardson declined to discuss specifics of the case. They did, however, inform us that an investigative report from their agency had been provided to Brackett’s office.
“We have submitted our report to the sixteenth circuit solicitor’s office,” Berry and Richardson told us.
The Lewis case file is “open,” they added, “because the Solicitor could ask for additional investigator work.”
Brackett told us this week he would “make the call” on any additional investigatory work after he had reviewed the case file, which was referred to him last week by S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson. Brackett’s office received the SLED report related to the investigation on Friday, he confirmed.
Lewis, 42, is facing assorted criminal probes and a civil lawsuit stemming from his alleged sexual assault of 23-year-old Savannah Nabors, his former assistant in the sheriff’s office.
On August 31, 2017 this news site published an exclusive report detailing the allegations made by Nabors – which were originally made on a blog post she entitled “A Letter to the Sheriff’s Next Sexual Assault Victim.”
“He’s a church-going man, strong in his faith,” she wrote in the 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.”
(Click to view)
“This man, who is twice my age, that I looked to for protection … used his power, his authority in his position, and the trust that he had built to coerce me into allowing him into my hotel room on a business trip out of town,” Nabors (above) continued. “He forced himself on me. He took advantage of me. He brainwashed me from the moment I met him. It was all a set up. It was all for this moment where he took every last piece of me. And I had nowhere to run.”
“I couldn’t call 9-1-1,” Nabors wrote. “He was ‘9-1-1.'”
“Every time I rejected him my job, my benefits and my title were threatened,” she added, referring to a pattern of alleged harassment on the part of the sheriff that lasted from the moment she was hired to the moment she resigned.
Most ominously, Nabors’ blog post accused Lewis of drugging and raping her during a taxpayer-funded business trip to Charlotte, N.C. in March of 2017.
Last October, Nabors detailed these allegations further in a bombshell civil suit – news of which was also exclusively reported by our site.
According to Nabors’ pleading, Lewis began to sexually harass her “almost immediately after (she) began her employment” with the sheriff’s office in December 2016. This harassment culminated with the alleged assault at a Hyatt hotel in downtown Charlotte, N.C.
According to Nabors’ version of events, Lewis came to her hotel room shortly before midnight on March 7, 2017 to retrieve some alcohol he had entrusted to her care earlier in the day. Upon entering her room, Lewis is alleged to have poured each of them a glass “of what appeared to be a brown liquor.”
“(Nabors) had a few sips of her drink, and she began to feel uncomfortable,” the complaint alleges. “(She) does not recall the Sheriff drinking any of the drink that he poured for himself.”
Nabors then claimed to have resisted several romantic advances made by Lewis, who allegedly told her “that she needed to relax.” At that point, Nabors claimed she “began to slip in and out of consciousness.”
Here is a key excerpt from Nabors’ pleading …
(Nabors) remembers regaining consciousness when the Sheriff was on top of her, having sex with her. It took (her) a second to realize what was happening and she had no idea how long it had gone on. The Sheriff asked (her) if she was ready for him to “finish,” and (she) said yes. The Sheriff then giggled, making a joke about how long he could “last,” and added that he was sure (Nabors) was not used to that. (Nabors) then lost consciousness again.
Nabors also accused Lewis of committing a second sexual assault against her the following day – allegedly waking up to discover him “fingering” her without her consent.
In addition to these graphic details of unwanted sexual contact, Nabors’ lawsuit (and subsequent statements to law enforcement) also centered around numerous audio recordings she made of her and Lewis. In one of these recordings, Lewis discussed his plans to further an affair with her on the taxpayer dime – and cover it up.
“You wanna go to Reno?” Lewis asked Nabors on one of the recordings, referring to a national sheriff’s association conference.
“If I got a chance yeah I wanna go anywhere I can go,” she responded.
Lewis then told Nabors he would have to see “what the county will pay for” as it related to hotel rooms for the trip.
“I’m fine with it if the county’s only gonna pay for one room,” he told Nabors.
“I don’t see how that’s gonna work,” Nabors replied. “That’s too risky if somebody were to find out.”
“Ain’t nobody gonna find out – because nobody is going to be out there from South Carolina,” Lewis responded. “Nobody is going to find out. That’s the whole point.”
Nabors continued to demur, prompting Lewis (below) to tell her he was calling off the trip.
(Click to view)
“Well I’m probably not going to go then,” he said.
Investigators have extensively reviewed Nabors’ recordings, we’re told, which document his harassing behavior.
In one of the recordings, the sheriff makes a reference to Nabors serving “at his pleasure.”
“Ultimately if you work at the sheriff’s office, you work at the pleasure of the sheriff,” he told her during a conversation on April 20, 2017.
In a recording dated April 24, 2017, Nabors told Lewis she felt “manipulated” by him.
“I have in no way manipulated you – or tried to,” he told Nabors. “My manipulation is very, very different. It’s devious and it’s evil. I manipulate people and I do that for the advantage of myself only, not for a relationship … I am completely capable of manipulating you. I choose not to.”
We expect that statement to come back and bite Lewis … especially in light of what investigators appear to have uncovered regarding his office’s obstruction of their probe.
According to multiple sources within the Greenville sheriff’s office, Lewis and Sheek did everything within their power to disrupt SLED’s investigation from the very beginning.
One member of Lewis’ command staff reportedly told investigators that Sheek – who also appears likely to face charges in connection with the probe – was “going around the office telling people that he was going to find out who was talking to SLED.”
Another officer reportedly told investigators that Sheek returned from his initial interview with SLED complaining that the questions he was asked were “very personal” in nature and that he was going to “find out who was talking to SLED.”
Yet another sheriff’s office employee reportedly told investigators that an “agitated” Sheek informed them in the presence of another employee that he was “going to find out who was leaking information to SLED.”
According to our sources, these statements quickly morphed into what amounted to a full-scale “internal investigation” of the SLED probe – along with threats and intimidation directed toward anyone suspected of cooperating with the inquiry.
“They were running their own investigation into who was cooperating with SLED,” one source inside the sheriff’s office told us. “It was a probe of the probe, basically.”
Multiple members of Lewis’ command staff reportedly told investigators that they – and civilian staffers in Lewis’ office – were hauled into either Lewis or Sheek’s office and “asked what SLED had questioned (them) about.”
Many reported that these conversations were “inappropriate” and made them feel “uncomfortable.”
Another employee reportedly told investigators that she was offered a significant raise shortly after the investigation was launched. This raise – which amounted to nearly $9,000 annually – was deemed “odd” by the employee in question.
According to our sources, the employee who was offered the raise was one of the first to be contacted by SLED investigators.
If there were carrots, there was also allegedly a “stick.”
According to a captain on Lewis’ command staff, the sheriff made specific threats toward those who were allegedly cooperating with the SLED probe.
“When this is all done there are certain people what will not survive it,” Lewis allegedly told the captain, insisting he would be cleared of all charges and implying that he would have his vengeance on those who “betrayed” him.
“The sheriff and Sheek made it clear to us they were the ones who asked for the (SLED) investigation – and that they knew how it was going to end and if we were smart we would see how it was going to end, too,” one Greenville sheriff’s deputy told us.
(Click to view)
In one command staff meeting, Sheek allegedly told Lewis’ top officers that the sheriff had “access to the video tapes of the SLED interviews” and that upon the conclusion of the investigation “the Sheriff is going to watch the tapes.”
According to Sheek, the tapes were subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – making them available to Lewis.
Sheek is then alleged to have repeated the same line to members of the command staff about how “certain people … aren’t going to survive this.”
Speaking of FOIA, investigators also reportedly uncovered evidence that Lewis and Sheek conspired to withhold information from the public that should have been available under the state’s open records laws. In fact, when one captain on Lewis’ command staff argued in favor of releasing the information, Lewis and Sheek reportedly cut him out of handling future FOIA requests.
Not only that, Lewis reportedly forced members of the sheriff’s internal affairs division – the office of professional responsibility – to sign nondisclosure agreements prohibiting them from discussing certain cases.
In addition to all of this, Lewis is said to have directed individual members of his command staff on how they were to respond to the SLED probe. In one case, he is accused of directly instructing one of his employees not to discuss a prior conversation between the two of them regarding Nabors.
According to our sources, upon returning from the Charlotte trip where Nabors was allegedly assaulted, Lewis reportedly placed a call to major Ty Miller.
“Poor Savannah is struggling today because she had too much to drink,” Lewis is alleged to have told Miller.
He then allegedly instructed Miller not to tell anyone else in the department that Nabors had gone on the trip to Charlotte “because no one else knew that she had gone.”
Miller was allegedly told “to keep it quiet.”
Months later, on the day SLED was asked by the sheriff’s office to initiate its investigation, Lewis is alleged to have told Miller that she “didn’t need to tell SLED about the conversation that they had in March following the Charlotte trip regarding Nabors.”
We are endeavoring to confirm additional details related to this investigation now (including those tied to the alleged misappropriation of public funds), but it seems abundantly clear to us at this point that Lewis and Sheek are in serious, serious trouble.
Also, this is all tied to just one investigation into Lewis. The Charlotte-Mecklenberg police department is continuing its investigation into the sexual assault allegations leveled by Nabors.
In late October of last year, this news site was the first media outlet in the state to call on Lewis to resign.
“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, ladies and gentlemen, 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.”
In light of this new information, we would reiterate our call for Lewis to do the right thing and step down from his post as sheriff.
It’s clear at this point there is no way he is going to survive this investigation … whatever he and Sheek may be saying to the contrary.
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