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Conway Criminal Law Blog

Arrest yields M-16, drugs, caustic press release from sheriff

The release of a criminal suspect on bail can be a frustrating event for local law enforcement officers. After a judge ordered the release of a man arrested on weapons and drug charges, the sheriff of Orangeburg County was compelled to issue a sharply critical press release in which he compared the judge’s order to a satirical episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The arrest

The suspect was arrested on April 19 when police arrived at his residence to continue an investigation into a domestic violence case. As deputies approached the residence in question, they spotted a man holding a plastic container with white power. The man appeared to be walking toward a vehicle that was parked nearby. When the man spotted the police, he returned to the house.

When questioned by police, the woman at the wheel of the parked car said that she came to the house to purchase cocaine. The officers on the scene then called for backup from the sheriff’s special operations units. These units arrived armed with, among other weapons, search warrants for the house and the car. When police searched the residence and the car, they found an M-16 rifle that had been modified to fire as a semiautomatic weapon, clear plastic bags each containing 80 grams of cocaine and a grocery bag containing an undisclosed amount of cash. The man originally spotted by deputies was arrested and taken into custody without further incident.

The bail hearing

Media accounts of the initial court hearing do not contain much information, but it appears that the suspect was released by the judge without posting bail. This order prompted the sheriff to compare the courtroom and the judge to a satirical episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show in which Ms. Winfrey reportedly pointed to members of the audience saying to each of them “You get a car.” The sheriff said that the judge’s actions were comparable to Ms. Winfrey’s fictitiously giving away cars to her audience. The sheriff said that “Everybody—no matter how violent—gets a bond.”

The sheriff’s anger was perhaps prompted by the fact that the suspect was free after having previously posted a $20,000 bond for alleged crimes of drug possession and possessing a weapon during possession of a violent crime, the same crimes for which he had just been arrested by the Orangeburg County sheriff. The defendant is scheduled for another court hearing on May 30.

Effective representation

The defendant in this case has been arrested numerous times in Orangeburg County since 2007. Given the suspect’s prior criminal history and apparent repeat offenses, he is facing very serious penalties if he is convicted of the most recent charges. The defendant in this case has apparently done well representing himself, but he should not expect similar success in the future without the assistance of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.