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South Carolina Judicial Reform: The Todd Rutherford Interview

Powerful Palmetto State lawyer-legislator pushes back …

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It’s not often that someone your media outlet has openly referred to as being corrupt – as being the poster politician for everything that’s wrong with your home state’s ‘injustice system‘ – joins you on camera to address those allegations.

That happened this month when South Carolina minority leader Todd Rutherford, one of the most powerful politicians in the S.C. General Assembly – and a member of the panel that picks judges in the Palmetto State – visited our studios for an in-depth, exclusive interview.

My exchange with Rutherford began amicably enough, but – as expected – it included plenty of tense moments as I questioned him on a number of high-profile cases in which he has been involved. Right out of the gate, I asked Rutherford point blank about our reporting on an ongoing S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigation into allegations tied to his “official duties” as a legislator – including items related to his personal finances.

Pulling no punches, Rutherford responded pointedly.

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“The word ‘bullshit’ comes to mind,” he told me. “I am not under any SLED investigation.”

I also challenged Rutherford on recent comments made by one of his fellow Richland County Democrats – state senator Dick Harpootlian – about the latest candidate report prepared by Rutherford and his colleagues on the S.C. Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC).

“This is an abomination,” Harpootlian said. “This is an outrage. It’s a violation of the law. These are legislators breaking the law to pick the people who will interpret the law. I mean, does it get any more dystopian than this?”

Here is the clip of Harpootlian from the well of the S.C. Senate last week that we played for Rutherford …

(Click to View)

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Rutherford fired back that Harpootlian ran for office “under the pretenses of a fraud,” referring to the latter’s recent decision to seek a second full term in the S.C. Senate after originally indicating he planned on serving just one term.

He also disputed Harpootlian’s right to call himself a Democrat.

As to the substance of Harpootlian’s comments, Rutherford accused him of being ignorant of the law – and of JMSC processes governing how candidates are found qualified.

“He reads the first paragraph,” Rutherford said. “He doesn’t ever read the whole law.”

Pivoting to some of the high-profile cases in which Rutherford has been involved, I grilled him on the particulars of a controversial bond he secured for an accused murderer in York County, a dubious “pre-sentencing” report he used to delay the incarceration of a Richland County drug dealer and – of course – the case of convicted killer and gang leader Jeroid J. Price, which has shredded the notion of “mandatory minimums” for murderers in South Carolina.

Price, our audience will recall, was unconstitutionally released from the custody of the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC) in March of this year – sparking a nationwide manhunt. The state supreme court later voided his release, and he was remanded back into SCDC custody after eventually being captured in New York.

Rutherford defended Price’s early release, saying he “helped out two guards” and gave “information about a dangerous prisoner (who) had already escaped once before.”

This news outlet has obviously weighed in on all of these cases – and their underlying issues – in previous articles. In interviewing Rutherford, I tried to strike a balance between pressing him on the particulars of each case while at the same time letting him share his side of the story (which is why we invited him to our studio in the first place).

The bottom line? As aggressively as we go after certain public officials, our media outlet will always extend our open microphone to them – either for a one-on-one conversation or the opportunity to address our audience directly. Whatever I’ve said about Rutherford in the past – and will likely say about him in the future – I sincerely appreciate his willingness to engage us in that conversation.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

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 and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.

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3 comments

Concerned Citizen Top fan January 15, 2024 at 6:00 pm

I respect the man for coming in and talking to you.

Reply
Squishy123 (the original) January 15, 2024 at 6:14 pm

You should have asked him if he joined the mile high club when he was flying around with his girlfriend on the taxpayer’s dime.

Reply
Andrea Manigault Top fan January 16, 2024 at 10:16 pm

He is the epitome of corrupt! God bless the day he is no longing in our statehouse.

Reply

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