Embattled Colleton County, South Carolina clerk of court Becky Hill is the focus of two separate inquiries currently pending before the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC) – twin investigations which could soon be referred to the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) for criminal prosecution.
In fact, multiple sources familiar with these investigations said they believe both of Hill’s pending ethics cases will wind up at SLED … sooner rather than later.
“They are leaning strongly toward referring them to SLED,” a source close to the investigation told us this week.
The two ethics investigations into Hill are potentially intertwined with an ongoing SLED investigation into allegations of jury tampering against the independently elected clerk of court. According to our sources, one of the two ethics investigations tied to Hill has a direct Murdaugh nexus – namely the publication of her recent book, Behind the Doors of Justice: The Murdaugh Murders.
The second investigation is reportedly tied to allegations of misappropriated funds from the clerk’s office budget. It is not immediately clear whether that inquiry has any tie to the murder trial that made Hill a household name.
Hill’s office oversaw convicted killer Alex Murdaugh’s six-week double murder trial earlier this year – an international spectacle which has been referred to as the ‘Trial of the Century’ in the Palmetto State. She was also the one who announced Murdaugh’s guilty verdicts to a waiting world on the evening of March 2, 2023. In early September, though, the script flipped. Murdaugh’s attorneys – led by Dick Harpootlian and Jim Griffin – dropped a bombshell motion accusing Hill of tampering with the Colleton County jury that decided Murdaugh’s fate.
“Hill betrayed her oath of office for money and fame,” Harpootlian and Griffin alleged, accusing Hill of improperly influencing jurors against Murdaugh.
An evidentiary hearing into the allegations against Hill is likely to take place sometime in February or March of 2024.
Hill has denied any wrongdoing – and initial reports have pointed to there being some substance to her denials.
In the intervening months, however, Hill and her family members have come under withering scrutiny.
Hill’s memoirs were published in late July. Prior to her announcing them, Hill wrote SCSEC officials and asked if she could publish a book based on “the process of (the) trial from beginning to end, focusing on the process itself, the history of it and of course the high-profile cases that South Carolina has had.”
RELATED | COLLETON COUNTY IT DIRECTOR ARRESTED
Ethics officials were not thrilled with the idea, telling Hill she need to ask herself if the opportunity to publish such a volume “arose as a result of your position as clerk of court” – and to consider whether the publication of such a narrative was in any way tied to her “official responsibility” as a public official.
“In the opinion of commission staff, it seems unlikely that writing a book would fall within your official responsibilities as clerk of court,” Hill was advised. “However, you will have to make that ultimate determination based on your official duties and the guidelines offered above.”
Hill went ahead with the book – a decision which appears to have sparked much of the ensuing legal drama currently ensnaring her family.
Earlier this month, our Andy Fancher exclusively reported that Hill’s son – Colleton County information technology director Jeffrey “Colt” Hill – was under investigation by SLED for “illegally recording conversations” involving Meagan Utsey, the deputy county administrator. Last week, Fancher exclusively reported this investigation had borne fruit – notably Jeffrey Hill’s arrest on one count of wiretapping for having “willfully and feloniously intercept(ed) electronic phone communication.”
SLED subsequently issued a news release announcing Jeffrey Hill’s arrest.
This news outlet has since learned the wiretapping investigation into Jeffrey Hill could soon extend to county emails as well as recorded phone conversations. We were also informed investigators are exploring obstruction of justice charges against both Becky Hill and Jeffrey Hill as it relates to the mushrooming wiretapping scandal.
According to our sources, Jeffrey Hill’s alleged wiretapping of Utsey began in early June and continued through late July – which is when county staffers first became aware of the surreptitious recordings and reported them to ethics investigators.
Here is where things get interesting …
Around that same time – in late July – Becky Hill’s county-issued cell phone number was reportedly “released” from its taxpayer-funded Verizon account and promptly added to her personal account. This, we are told, was part of an effort to evade accountability – specifically, to dodge a looming subpoena from the ethics commission for Becky Hill’s cell phone records. Whatever motivated the account switcheroo, Becky Hill’s county-issued cell phone was removed from the county cell phone plan by the time a subpoena was eventually issued for it by ethics investigators in mid-August.
As our readers are aware, Becky Hill’s cell phone was the focus of a separate subpoena tied to the criminal probe into her son’s alleged wiretapping. As Fancher reported last week, Becky Hill was “forced to surrender her phone to SLED upon the issuance of a search warrant Tuesday evening.”
The cell phone seized by SLED was not the same device she used during the Murdaugh trial, incidentally.
The saga surrounding Hill – and its potential implications on Alex Murdaugh’s request for a new trial – formed the basis of our latest Week In Review program.
To listen to that episode, click here …
Count on our media outlet to keep our audience up to speed on the very latest developments related to this ongoing spinoff of the ‘Murdaugh Murders‘ crime and corruption saga.
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.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to proactively address? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.