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Charleston County School Official Sues News Site Over Child Porn Story

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A Charleston County School District (CCSD) official is suing a local news website for defamation after they reported that he kept his job after allegedly mishandling an elementary school employee accused of possessing child pornography and sexually abusing children.

William Briggman, Chief of Human Resources at CCSD, filed the suit in December against John and Robin Steinberger, and their company lowcountrysource.com/ Lowcountry Media Group LLC. 

The lawsuit stems from a 2018 Lowcountry Source story written by John Steinberger titled “CCSD HR chief still on the job despite blunder in pedophile case.”

The story focused on Marvin Gethers – an North Charleston elementary school employee who died awaiting trial after facing child exploitation and criminal sexual conduct charges – and questioned the school officials, including Briggman, who continued to let him work for years around children after IT employees at the school found child pornography on his computer.

During this time when Gethers was still employed by the district after his computer was flagged by IT, he allegedly molested several young boys while at the North Charleston elementary school, Live 5 News reported.

At least seven victims have come forward and said they were sexually abused by Gethers, the Post and Courier reported. At least three of those victims’ parents have filed lawsuits against the district.

In the article, Steinberger wrote that Briggman was working as the chief human relations officer at the time of the incident and said there was “no action taken” to reprimand him after it went public.

Charleston County School official William Briggman
William Briggman, Chief of Human Resources at Charleston County School District.

The story sparked outrage on social media, according to the lawsuit.

“How many more employees are the ‘powers at be’ covering up for??” One commenter asked.

“What the F,” asked another. 

But there was a big problem with the story — according to the lawsuit —Briggman was not working as Chief HR officer at the time. The HR department of the school district was split into two offices and Briggman worked as executive director of HR, where his job responsibilities were primarily financial matters, hiring, and recruitment, instead of personnel matters, the lawsuit said.

Two other HR employees were terminated in relation to the handling of the child pornography case, the lawsuit said.

On the evening the Lowcountry Source story was published, a CCSD official emailed Steinberger about the alleged error in the article, according to the suit. 

Instead of a correction, Lowcountry Source added an addendum to the bottom of the article and kept the same headline. 

The lawsuit calls the article “accusatory” and caused Briggman “mental suffering” after the article portrayed him “as someone who was in a position of knowledge, responsibility, and/or opportunity to have prevented Gethers from allegedly engaging in wrongful sexual acts with elementary aged children or being terminated from his employment.”

The 20-year veteran of the district said in the lawsuit his reputation in the community was tarnished by the lawsuit. 

Briggman is suing for defamation, saying the published statements made against him were false and defamatory, as they alleged he may have committed a crime. 

Lawrence Richter of the Richter Law Firm in Mount Pleasant is representing Briggman in the case. He has requested a jury trial. 

John Steinberger declined to comment on the matter, citing pending litigation.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an award-winning journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Want to contact Mandy? Send your story ideas, comments, suggestions and tips to [email protected].

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