A man who pleaded guilty to nine counts of armed robbery in 2015 has been released from prison more than ten years early despite having an abysmal disciplinary record – and several thousands of dollars in unpaid court fines.
A sentence reduction order from retired South Carolina circuit court judge Casey Manning – issued just days prior to his retirement – reduced 37-year-old Ryan O’Neal Gist’s prison sentence from twenty years to ten years, and put him on home detention for a term of five years. That means Gist served only eight of the twenty years he was supposed to spend behind bars.
Manning reduced Gist’s sentence on December 22, 2022 – a week after a hearing in which the convicted criminal, his attorney James Cheek and S.C. seventh circuit solicitor Barry Barnette appeared before the outgoing judge.
Manning’s motion releasing Gist was never posted to the Palmetto State’s public index, however.
Gist submitted a motion to have his sentence reduced on August 6, 2015 – a day after he pleaded guilty to nine counts of armed robbery, two counts of common law robbery and nine counts of possessing a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
A kidnapping charge filed against him at the time was dropped in connection with his plea agreement.
Barnette did not agree to a reduction in Gist’s sentence, according to a spokesman from his office.
“Solicitor Barnette did not send a letter to the court regarding the motion; he appeared at the December 2022 motion hearing,” a statement from the seventh circuit solicitor’s office noted. “The victims were notified of the hearing, and written victim input received by our office was submitted to judge Manning for (his) consideration. During the motion hearing, Solicitor Barnette asked that if the court was going to reduce Gist’s sentence that (Manning) consider adding a consecutive fifteen years suspended to five years home detention sentence on one of Gist’s charges with the explicit result of a home detention violation being service of fifteen years in prison. When the motion for reconsideration was granted, (Manning) ultimately included that sentence in Gist’s resentencing.”
According to Gist’s attorney, calling the change in sentencing a reduction is “uninformed.”
“Gist did not receive a reduction at all,” Cheek said.
According to him, the change from prison to home detention is not a reduction because time on home detention is served on a day-for-day basis while offenders in prison can be expected to serve between 50 to 80 percent of their sentence.
Prior to the 2015 charges that landed him in prison, Gist already had a ten-year criminal history including charges for domestic violence, drugs and larceny. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to three counts of armed robbery and received an eight-year sentence. At the time, Gist was ordered to satisfy all of the fines in arrears. Even so, by May 2015 he was free to re-offend and none of the fines were paid.
Gist currently owes fines amounting to more than $8,600 to Spartanburg County courts over criminal violations dating back to 2005.
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Since his sentence commenced on August 7, 2015, Gist has had nine disciplinary sanctions – three related to drug possession, two for possession of a cell phone, and one each for striking an employee, using a social network site, possession of a weapon and possession of a negotiable instrument.
In addition to the loss of television, canteen, property, visitation and telephone privileges for these infractions, Gist lost sixty (60) days of good time for striking an employee.
Nonetheless, he was released from the custody of the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC) on September 29, 2023 – a full month ahead of schedule.
Following the sentence reduction order, Gist’s projected release date was October 31, 2023. According to the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC), Gist was released on September 29, 2023. He will be on home detention for five years. If he should violate that, he will be sentenced to 15 years. The Court issued a permanent restraining order to keep Gist from the victims, their locations and “any CVS pharmacies”.
Gist was one of eight inmates granted an early release by order of Judge Manning during December 2022. Jeroid Price was the first to be released when he was freed from a New Mexico prison in March where he was being detained under an interstate agreement only to be returned to South Carolina to serve out the rest of his sentence after Manning’s order was overturned by the South Carolina Supreme Court.
Karli Stroman is expected to be released December 1, 2023 after serving eight years of a ten-year sentence for felony DUI resulting in death. She will be followed by Edward Walker on March 5, 2024. Walker has served 15 years of a 20-year sentence for armed robbery and manslaughter. The last of the beneficiaries of Manning’s December 2022 sentence reductions is scheduled to be released in September 2026.
THE ORDER …
(Via: S.C. Courts)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher, and author whose investigative work can be found in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world – most recently in the Parisian newspaper Le Monde and a German documentary for ProSieben. Lyons also appears in Citizen Sleuth – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.
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