As the scourge of excessive judicial leniency for violent criminals in South Carolina continues to claim lives, the Palmetto State’s top cop is speaking out against this chronic practice – and vowing to push for reforms when state lawmakers return to Columbia, S.C. next month.
“Republicans” enjoy a supermajority in the S.C. House of Representatives and a near-supermajority in the State Senate, so you would think implementing more stringent bond requirements in the name of public safety would be an easily achievable priority.
Especially given how deadly this epidemic has become …
Sadly, though, the opposite has been true.
Not only that, these lawmakers – who appoint South Carolina’s judges – seem intent on maintaining a status quo that benefits them personally.
For years, my news outlet has been leading the fight against the worsening epidemic of judicial leniency in South Carolina … calling out judges across the state for their perpetual accommodation of violent criminals via the weak bonds they dole out, the anemic sentences they administer or their utter failure to move cases.
More importantly, I have called out the powerful, well-connected lawyer-legislators who perpetuate this chronically failed system. You know, the people actually responsible.
This week, S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) chief Mark Keel – who rarely speaks on the record on any issue – gave his sternest comments to date regarding this ongoing problem.
“Guns, drugs – and criminals’ easy access to guns – continue to play a large role in the amount of violent crime we are seeing in South Carolina,” Keel said. “This is further compounded by the sheer lack of accountability when it comes to bonds. I look forward to working with the General Assembly in the upcoming session to ensure criminals who continue to commit crimes while out on bond are held accountable.”
Keel’s comments were not made in a vacuum. They were issued after 74-year-old Ernest Kenner of Columbia, S.C. was killed at approximately 8:00 a.m. EST on Friday morning after his vehicle was struck by a car fleeing from Richland County sheriff’s department deputies.
The driver of the vehicle which struck and killed Kenner? Shylek Pringle, 25, of Columbia, who was out on bond on multiple charges at the time of the incident.
(Click to view)
(Via: Richland County)
Pringle (above) has been charged with speeding in a school zone and driving under the influence in connection with Friday’s fatal collision. Additional charges are likely to be issued following an investigation of the crash conducted by the S.C. Highway Patrol (SCHP).
Pringle was already staring down a host of other charges at the time of the crash – including several charges which should have landed him behind bars.
In June of this year, magistrate Mildred R. Metts issued Pringle a $20,000 personal recognizance bond (i.e. a bond he did not have to put up any money for) after he was charged with possessing a weapon during the commission of a violent crime and narcotics trafficking.
At the time of these charges, Pringle was already out on bond on unrelated October 2021 charges of unlawfully carrying a pistol and narcotics trafficking. He was further charged on November 9, 2021 with accessory after the fact to a felony murder – a charge which is also still pending against him.
In a case of tragic irony, Pringle had also been facing a failure to stop for blue lights charge from November 2021 – although that charge was dismissed on September 21, 2022.
Richland County sheriff Leon Lott echoed Keel’s frustrations with chronic judicial leniency in South Carolina.
“I am extremely frustrated at yet another example of catch and release,” Lott said in a statement issued to multiple local media outlets. “This innocent man was just going about his day and now he’s gone. I’m tired of talking about this problem. We need to stop talking and do something about it before more innocent people are killed at the hands of individuals who clearly have no regard for the law or human life.”
“I keep saying ‘enough is enough,’” I noted in a post earlier this year. “Yet the system keeps failing. And the fatal consequences keep accumulating. Seriously … how many more bodies will it take before someone stands up and does something?”
I don’t know what the answer to that question is … but I would venture to guess the family and friends of Ernest Kenner wish state lawmakers had been far more aggressive in toughening bond requirements when they had the chance.
Certainly I plan on joining Keel and other victim/ public safety advocates as they push to get lawmakers to enact a host of justice reforms in the upcoming legislative session.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
(Via: Phillippe Randolph Folks)
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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