It’s been a bad week for John Hardee, the former South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) commissioner whose father-in-law, state senator Hugh Leatherman, is arguably the most powerful politician in the Palmetto State.
On Wednesday, Hardee was sentenced in federal court for obstructing justice in connection with an investigation into alleged corruption at his former agency. Facing two decades behind bars and a fine of up to $250,000, he received eighteen months probation and a fine of only $1,000.
Just when it seemed he was out of the woods, though, state prosecutors made their move.
On Thursday afternoon, this news outlet exclusively reported that Hardee was the focus of a preliminary inquiry into similar allegations at the state level – with the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson requesting an investigation by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
On Friday, though, the real bombshell hit …
According to WLTX TV 19 (CBS – Columbia, S.C.), the 72-year-old political insider was “arrested on a charge of solicitation of prostitution” – just days after he apologized “to my God, my family, my government and my pastor” for his attempt to destroy evidence in connection with his corruption case.
Details of Hardee’s arrest were not immediately available Friday. So far, all we know is he was arrested on Thursday evening by deputies of the Richland County sheriff’s department and taken to the Alvin S. Glenn detention center.
(Click to view)
(Via: Alvin S Glenn Detention Center)
Hardee (above) was released on a $465 bond. His case will be handled by the office of S.C. fifth circuit solicitor Byron Gipson.
As with anyone accused of committing any crime, Hardee is considered innocent until proven guilty by our criminal justice system or until such time as he may enter a plea in connection with the charge filed against him.
That latter option could prove problematic in his case, however.
If he is convicted at trial or enters a guilty plea in connection with the solicitation charge, Hardee would be in violation of the conditions of his federal parole.
That means he could once again be facing prison time …
Hardee spent two terms on the SCDOT commission – first from 1998 to 2007 and then again from 2014 to 2018. During that time, the Columbia, S.C. native was dogged by nepotism allegations as well as criticism that his company received preferential treatment on state contracts.
More troublingly, it wasted billions of dollars on unnecessary and non-priority road projects at a time when pressing infrastructure needs went unmet.
“The SCDOT commission was atrociously managed for years by Hardee and his cronies – with political considerations, not infrastructure priorities, dominating the panel’s decision-making,” we wrote back in January on the occasion of his guilty plea on the obstruction charge.
This news outlet does not believe prostitution should be illegal (and have argued as much on numerous prior occasions). But given the damage Hardee and his fellow commissioners have done over the years to taxpayers, we haven’t exactly shed any tears over his ongoing unraveling.
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