Former South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) commissioner John Hardee was sentenced to seven months in a federal prison on Wednesday after he was caught violating the terms of his parole.
Hardee, 72, was sentenced to eighteen months probation two months ago by U.S. district court judge Terry Wooten for obstructing justice in an anti-corruption case. Mere hours after accepting this exceedingly light sentence, Hardee was caught up in a solicitation bust organized by deputies of the Richland County sheriff’s department.
Dubbed “Operation Relentless Guardian,” this multi-jurisdictional effort was focused on catching child predators – although officials made it clear Hardee was not seeking an underage partner for his sexual gratification.
The son-in-law of powerful S.C. Senate leader Hugh Leatherman allegedly corresponded with an officer posing as an adult, female prostitute – hoping to pay $40 for a “quick visit.”
Hardee’s arrest on the solicitation rap violated the terms of his federal parole, although considering he was originally facing two decades behind bars and a fine of up to $250,000 there is still a case to be made that he is receiving undeserved leniency.
Federal prosecutors had asked Wooten to put Hardee behind bars for sixteen months for violating his parole. Meanwhile, Hardee’s lawyers asked Wooten to allow his probationary sentence to continue.
Wooten split it down the middle …
(Click to view)
(Via: Getty Images)
“If you didn’t learn the last time, I hope you will learn this time,” he told Hardee.
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.
Hardee is also the focus of a state investigation, as was exclusively reported two months ago by this news outlet.
In the aftermath of his legal troubles, Hardee’s former colleagues on the SCDOT commission have stripped his name from a pair of roadways – one leading to the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) and the other covering a section of U.S. Highway 701 in Horry county. The University of South Carolina has also scrubbed Hardee’s legacy from its campus – removing an honorary plaque that appeared on a pedestrian overpass near its Strom Thurmond fitness center.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our stories? Please feel free to submit your own letter to the editor (or guest column) via-email HERE. Got a tip for us? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE. Want to support what we’re doing? SUBSCRIBE HERE.