It’s been an uneventful few weeks in the ‘Days of our Congressman’ saga involving U.S. congressman William Timmons of South Carolina. Part of the reason for that? Another, newer soap opera (‘As the Congressman Turns?’) premiered late last month in the district adjacent to the one represented by Timmons.
The political sex scandal involving fellow “family values” Republican Jeff Duncan has taken some of the heat off Timmons – but the real reason for the recent silence is the signing of a settlement agreement in the family court case that was driving much of the drama.
This news outlet first reported in late August on the divorce and custody settlement reached between Timmons’ mistress – self-styled socialite Paula Dhier – and her estranged husband, Upstate real estate magnate Ron Rallis. According to our sources, the settlement between the two parties is now in effect – although Rallis is said to have already invoked the ire of the family court judge overseeing the case with at least one recent social media post.
Dhier and Rallis were set to go to trial last month, proceedings which would have no doubt garnered statewide attention given Timmons’ ill-advised meddling in his mistress’s messy divorce. Also, S.C. family court judge Timothy Madden made it clear he was inclined to open these proceedings to the public – over the objection of Dhier’s powerful attorney, S.C. ways and means committee chairman Bruce Bannister.
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Madden’s willingness to allow press access would have guaranteed renewed public attention on improper attempts by Timmons to influence the outcome of these proceedings on behalf of his mistress – including threats issued against Rallis and at least one instance of what could be perceived as witness tampering.
“Trials are never fun. You won’t like the outcome,” Timmons wrote in a text message to Rallis leading up to the scheduled proceedings. “It will be better if y’all come to an agreement.”
In the same message, Timmons said he would provide incriminating information to the court regarding Rallis’ “history of interaction with law enforcement” as well as details of his “actual financials.”
“It will not go well for you,” the congressman wrote.
Timmons also messaged a witness in the case offering to discuss “ways to manage an unreasonable subpoena.”
That’s a curious turn of a phrase, isn’t it?
Needless to say, such attempts to manipulate our court system are inexcusable – by anyone. They were especially egregious considering Timmons’ status as an attorney – to say nothing of a congressman. Accordingly, I called for an “immediate investigation” by the S.C. supreme court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) into whether Timmons “violated his oath and his obligations as a practicing attorney in the Palmetto State.”
This week, one of Rallis’ lawyers – and romantic interests – spoke for the first time on the starring role she played in the saga. Erika Baldwin – a criminal defense attorney in the Palmetto Upstate – has represented Rallis in multiple capacities in recent years. The status of Baldwin’s current personal/ professional relationship with Rallis is unclear – and she declined to elaborate on it when we reached out to her this week during the 2023 S.C. Solicitors’ Conference in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
We know she has engaged directly with Timmons before in connection with the case, although it is not immediately clear whether she was representing Rallis in an official capacity at the time.
Baldwin was reportedly the hot topic of conversation at the solicitors’ annual gathering this week – not just for the central, controversial role she has played in the ‘Days of our Congressman’ drama but also for several racy images she has posted to her personal Instagram page in recent weeks.
Take a look at one such photo …
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In our brief conversation, Baldwin led by addressing her risqué Instagram profile – from which multiple images were obtained and widely circulated at the solicitors’ conference. Baldwin’s profile has drawn criticism from some members of the bar who claim it violates an oath taken by every Palmetto State attorney to “maintain the dignity of the legal system.”
“It’s a sensitive time in the world to be talking shit about women and their need to be modest,” she told me. “It’s not about lawyers. It’s women in general. It is a fine f*cking time to be telling women what we can and can’t do with our bodies.”
Baldwin also told me she didn’t care “what any of those attorneys have to say because guess who my boss is – me.”
“Sometimes I run a loose ship sometimes I run a tight ship but at least I’m running my own ship,” she said. “I wish these attorneys would spend more time serving their clients and doing their jobs than talking about me – I’m largely irrelevant and uninteresting.”
Well … “irrelevant and uninteresting” except for her proximity to the biggest sex scandal to hit South Carolina politics since, well, this one.
To recap: Timmons initiated his own sex scandal last spring via an unsolicited “prayers and privacy” statement provided to this media outlet in response to rumors of his affair with Dhier. As I’ve often noted, this news outlet did not request a statement from him and had not indicated we had any plans to cover their tryst. In fact, FITSNews generally eschews reporting on affairs unless they involve misspent tax dollars, abuse of office, attendant criminality or some glaring, over-the-top hypocrisy on the part of the elected official in question.
The apparent goal of Timmons’ preemptive statement? Exposing his affair with Dhier so he could torpedo his marriage, sources familiar with the situation say. The congressman quickly lost control of the narrative, though, and shortly thereafter saw it escape completely from his grasp.
The reason? Rallis.
Last summer, the wealthy developer walked into a West End Greenville church he had previously purchased – and painted pink – and gave this news outlet an exclusive interview regarding his starring role in the Timmons’ sex scandal. As television crews gathered outside, Rallis spoke passionately about his battle for custody of his daughter with Dhier.
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Rallis was so effective at ginning up attention that producers of the Bravo TV reality show Southern Charm offered him a spot on their program – which he declined. His efforts also pushed beyond the limits – landing him in jail for three months on a contempt of court charge earlier this year.
Dhier’s affair with Timmons reportedly began in 2021 when she was living off-and-on with various members of the Timmons family – including the congressman and his ex-wife, Sarah Timmons. Dhier and Sarah Timmons were longtime friends – “best friends” of more than seven years, in fact – according to multiple sources familiar with the status of their relationship. The Timmons jointly announced their separation last fall. Like the Rallis’ case, their divorce file is also sealed.
Baldwin did not discuss the Rallis settlement when we spoke – nor did she provide an update on her relationship with the wealthy developer and his young daughter.
“I have remained incredibly tight lipped to anyone who has asked me about the settlement and about my relationship with Ron,” she told me. “I have never commented on my relationship status with Ron and that’s not going to change this time around. I love Ron and Sterling and will always remain steadfastly committed to their well-being and peace after two-and-a-half years of drama.”
And as for her critics?
“I haven’t broken any rules or laws,” she said. “And I’m not sleeping with married congressmen.”
This news outlet is continuing to follow several angles of this story. Among them? Timmons’ alleged violation of his oath as an attorney, alleged ethics violations said to have been committed in the furtherance of his affair with Dhier and perhaps most significantly, a suspicious death that occurred in mid-January of this year in Mexico that is somehow tied to Timmons’ mistress.
We are also tracking reports that Rallis is considering mounting an independent campaign for the U.S. Congress in the fall of 2024 – a development which could further complicate Timmons’ already imperiled reelection calculus.
Stay tuned for updates on all of these fronts in the weeks and months to come …
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 (soon to be eight) children.
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