South Carolina circuit court judge Bentley Price of Charleston, S.C. should have gotten the message by now. No more lenient sentences for violent offenders. No more anemic bonds for accused killers. No more sketchy procedural moves to rig the system in favor of powerful lawyer-legislators.
People are sick of this corrupt, insider deal-making … sick of judges selling out justice so they can kowtow to the politicians who appoint them.
As this news outlet has repeatedly noted, the current system has enabled widespread institutional corruption, shredded the rights of victims, empowered violent criminals and materially eroded public safety.
It has also turned the judiciary into little more than a political annex of the legislature.
Unfortunately, Price isn’t getting the message.
Even with all sorts of, um, “uncertainty” hanging over his head … he continues allowing lawyer-legislators to call the shots in his courtroom.
We saw this trend at work (again) in his courtroom on Monday when accused murderer Dartez Lamont Ferguson Jr. was allowed to remain free on bond despite prosecutors meticulously documenting the violent offender’s repeated violations of the conditions of his release.
It should … yet this is sadly just another example of South Carolina’s justice system working in favor of violent victimizers. And working against the interests of public safety.
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Ferguson, 27, of North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder (and several related charges) following a November 8, 2021 shooting at a North Charleston grocery store. Prior to this incident, his record already contained several arrests for violent offenses – including a 2017 guilty plea on a weapons charge (that was downgraded from attempted murder) as well as 2015 pleas on assault and battery and strong arm robbery charges.
And those are just the resolved cases involving Ferguson.
Just months before his arrest on murder charges, he was indicted on another strong arm robbery charge – and is also currently facing multiple drug charges. Oh, and since his murder arrest Ferguson has been hit with an indecent exposure charge.
Clearly, being out on bond with pending charges has not deterred him from committing additional crimes. Frankly, this is an individual who should have never received bond in the first place – let alone additional coddling from a circuit court judge after he repeatedly violated it.
Price appeared to belatedly recognize this … especially after the mother of the November 2021 murder victim spoke out against him being allowed to remain free following the violations. So he ruled to revoke Ferguson’s bond … initially.
“Initially, judge Price revoked Ferguson’s bond entirely for the next two weeks until the defense protested, at which point Price changed his ruling,” Cameron Bopp of WCSC-TV 5 (CBS – Charleston, S.C.) reported.
Wait … what?
“The defense protested …”
Who, exactly, is “the defense?”
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Bopp and his television station declined to mention any of this, but Ferguson is represented by state representative Leon Stavrinakis – one of the powerful lawyer-legislators who picks judges under the Palmetto State’s current, corrupt system.
Stavrinakis has a history of receiving preferential treatment from Price – which is probably why he leapt to Price’s defense last fall after this media outlet called the judge for the excessive and unconscionable leniency he showed toward a serial abuser of women in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Stavrinakis even bragged at Price’s investiture ceremony about how he and another state lawmaker got him elected.
Not only did Price bow to Stavrinakis on Ferguson’s bond, he apparently used his authority as chief executive judge to manipulate the docket so he could hear the case. According to our sources, Ferguson’s bond revocation hearing was originally scheduled to be heard by another circuit court judge – Roger Young – until Price intervened.
Insane, right? A judge bending over backward on behalf of a violent convict/ accused murderer – over the objections of the prosecutor and the victim? Sadly, no … in South Carolina that isn’t crazy. It’s normal. It is par for the course. It is expected.
In South Carolina, we have normalized institutional injustice to the point it has become noteworthy when the system works the way it is supposed to work. And judges like Price are the reason things have become so backward.
According to a July 14, 2023 press release (.pdf) from the much-maligned S.C. Judicial Merit Selection Commission (SCJMSC), Price is up for reelection in 2024. Make absolutely no mistake: Any lawmaker who votes to give this equivocating pile of pusillanimy another term on the bench is not only enabling corruption and empowering violent criminals, they are endangering victims and promoting the erosion of public safety in our state.
It’s as simple as that …
Sadly, lawmakers have failed so spectacularly when it comes to choosing judges – and have so selfishly and corruptly exploited this failure for their own financial benefit – they have lost the right to have any role in this process.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
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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