Prior to June of 2022, Savion Scott was well on his way to becoming a career criminal – just not a violent one. His arrest record featured a litany of charges for drug possession with intent to distribute – including cocaine and marijuana raps – but the native of North Charleston, South Carolina wasn’t someone my media outlet would say was deserving of perpetual pre-trial incarceration.
Not initially, at least …
Given my media outlet’s longstanding support for the decriminalization of marijuana and other recreational drugs, Scott was the sort of person I would have described (again, initially) as a budding entrepreneur rather than a crime wave waiting to happen.
Things began to change in June 2022, though, when Scott – while getting popped on his fifth drug charge in fifteen months – allegedly assaulted a police officer. Following that incident, he received a $45,000 surety bond from much-maligned S.C. circuit court judge Bentley Price.
The one condition imposed by Price? “Good behavior” – which, ironically, was the same condition imposed upon the 21-year-old the previous four times he was granted a surety bond on drug charges.
Following this June 2022 arrest, the leeway shown to Scott by the Palmetto State’s “justice” system should have narrowed considerably. Did it, though?
Regular members of our audience know the answer to that question is not just “no,” but “hell no.”
Escalation of criminal activity from non-violent to violent should prompt a “systemic recalibration,” one in which prosecutors and judges recognize the individual standing before them now poses a potential – or in many cases an actual – threat to his or her alleged victims and to public safety.
Unfortunately, South Carolina’s “justice” system habitually fails to make this recalibration. If anything, the needle often moves in the opposite direction – allowing violent criminals expanded leeway and leniency.
On August 4, 2022 – just 45 days after Price granted him bond – Scott was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. Despite his prior history – including the five previous “good behavior” bond conditions – he was released the following day after posting a surety bond of less than $650.
While this arrest should have provided an opportunity for the system to insist on some accountability for Scott – to make him finally realize there were consequences for failing to adhere to “good behavior” – I understand the magistrate’s decision to release him. With only one violent offense on his record at that point – it could be argued Scott was not a danger to the public. Yet.
Do I agree with the magistrate’s decision? No. I would have locked Scott up at that point.
But it is the rest of the story which (again) highlights the outrageousness of our current system of “justice.”
As our audience knows, South Carolina’s court system habitually shreds the rights of victims, empowers violent criminals and materially erodes public safety. And the problem is getting worse, not better … as Savion Scott’s case once again makes clear.
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On September 4, 2002 – precisely one month after his release on the DUI charge – Scott is alleged to have fired a handgun into a crowd at the corner of King and Morris Streets in downtown Charleston, S.C. as part of a deliberate attempt to kill what prosecutors have referred to as a “personal rival.” Multiple people were wounded in the shooting, and Scott was charged with attempted murder, six counts of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
Less than four months later, though … he was inexplicably released from jail.
The judge granting him his undeserved freedom? Bentley Price.
On January 3, 2023 – with former S.C. House judiciary chairman Peter McCoy representing him – Savion Scott appeared in court before Price. McCoy – an influential former U.S. attorney and close friend of the judge – submitted paperwork the day before the hearing notifying the court he was representing Scott as part of a “limited appearance for bond issues/ settings only.”
Prosecutors in the office of S.C. ninth circuit solicitor Scarlett Wilson were adamant Scott should not be granted bond. According to them, he was an “unmistakable danger to the community,” someone whose bond should be “denied and revoked for his many violations.”
As is his custom, though, Price did not listen to them. Instead of revoking Scott’s bond and returning him to jail, he actually consolidated the total bond amount set by the magistrate – and lowered it. A week later – on January 10, 2023 – Scott posted Bond and was released from the sheriff Al Cannon detention center.
One of the most common expressions we hear from justice reform advocates is as follows: “What’s it going to take?” Another regular refrain: “Is somebody going to have to die before they fix this system?“
So it goes with the case of Savion Scott …
Less than six months after his release from jail – while out on bond and purportedly under house arrest – Scott traveled to Dorchester Manor outside of North Charleston where he was supposedly working at the “Family Hussle” food truck. At approximately 4:13 p.m. EDT on the afternoon of June 16, 2023 – a Friday – deputies of the Dorchester County sheriff’s office responded to this area following reports of a shooting.
Upon arrival, they found Thomas Carter – 21, of North Charleston, S.C. – laying in a driveway with a gunshot wound to the chest. Carter later succumbed to his injuries.
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Here is an excerpt from a recent memorandum (.pdf) filed by the state in connection with this case …
During the course of the investigation, detectives spoke to a known witness who stated “Jigg”, “Murda”, and “Tank” pulled up to the victim in a gray Hyundai. All three exited and began talking to the victim. Victim had a handgun in his waistband. While talking to the victim, Jigg tried to take the handgun from the victim and a struggle ensued. The witness then heard gunshots. Detectives found the YouTube channel for Defendant who goes by the rapper moniker “JiggaRaxxs.” A OMV check revealed Defendant was the registered owner of a gray Hyundai. Detectives confirmed through Charleston Police Department EMU that Defendant’s GPS records placed him at the crime scene during the time of the shooting. As a result of the investigation by the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office, Defendant was arrested and charged with murder on June 22, 2023.
Now facing a murder rap on top of all his previous criminal charges, Savion Scott is seeking to have bond set for him again – this time in the S.C. first judicial circuit. In fact, he is scheduled to appear before S.C. circuit court judge Heath Taylor this afternoon (October 24, 2023) on a motion to set bond.
Not surprisingly, prosecutors in the office of S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe are opposing the motion for bond – saying the release of Scott would “pose an unreasonable danger to the community.”
“He was inexplicably free on numerous bonds when he allegedly committed a murder,” a memorandum from Pascoe lieutenant David Osborne noted.
Years ago, stories like the saga of Savion Scott would have invoked a flood of righteously indignant vitriol from my keyboard. My fingers would have hammered hyperbolic and histrionic in unrestrained rage at such a reckless and irresponsible ruling.
Today? It barely registers.
Today, such “inexplicable” outcomes are so routine – so expected – I can barely muster an iota of shock or outrage when confronted by them.
Our broken system has churned out so many cognitively dissonant decisions for so many years that stories like this no longer surprise anyone covering our courts. In fact, the sad reality staring us in the face is that it has actually become surprising when criminals get their due for a change.
Injustice in South Carolina has been normalized. Revictimization has been normalized. The decay of public safety has been normalized. The absence of any and all accountability has been normalized. Institutional corruption – and the corrosive influence of powerful politicians on the system – has been normalized.
Worst of all? The complete and total loss of public faith in the competence and integrity of our justice system has been normalized.
The question is no longer: “Does somebody have to die?”
The question now is: “How many more people are going to die?”
THE MOTION …
(Via: S.C. First Judicial Circuit)
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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