COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Lee County Sheriff Edgar Jerome "E.J." Melvin and several conspirators in a federal drug case were in court Monday afternoon for an initial appearance.
Melvin, along with Brenda LaShawn Ellerby, Antonio Holloman, Larry Williams, Eric Andre Hickman, Anthony Lee Williams, and Sheldon Maurice Bradley were arrested Saturday on federal drug conspiracy charges.
Magistrate Judge McCrorey set bond at $100,000 for defendants Williams, Hollomon, Delane and Ellerby.
Meanwhile, McCrorey denied bond for Melvin.
Melvin and the others are charged with conspiracy since 2006 to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 50 grams or more of crack cocaine.
Investigators placed wiretaps on Melvin's phones, the first time taps ever targeted a public official in this state.
Prosecutors say, in the taps, Melvin made statements that deeply concerned the government, statements made in planning the drug conspiracy.
Prosecutors say after agents confronted Melvin about the conspiracy case, he called Williams and the two planned a shakedown of drug dealers.
Melvin resigned from the sheriff's office shortly after the arrest. In a handwritten letter to Gov. Mark Sanford, Melvin says, "I sheriff E.J. Melvin resign on May 1, 2010 from the Lee County sheriff office. Sheriff E.J. Melvin." The letter is also signed by SLED witness Cecil J. Carter.
State Rep. Grady A. Brown has called the attorney general's office looking for an official opinion on what steps Lee County should take after the resignation of a sheriff. According to Sanford's office, the governor has the authority to appoint an interim sheriff. State law says the "second in command," or Lee County's chief deputy, is now the acting sheriff.
Melvin has served as sheriff for Lee County since 2001. In an interesting twist, WIS News 10 cameras actually followed Melvin on a 2004 drug raid in Lee County for the very same drugs he's accused of dealing with.
If convicted, each defendant could receive a life sentence in prison and a $4 million fine. Federal statutes also call for mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for at least ten years.
Melvin is being held at the Lexington County Detention Center.