Former Lee Co. Sheriff convicted of drug conspiracy, racketeering

E.J. Melvin
E.J. Melvin

By Jody Barr - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) — Former Lee County sheriff E.J. Melvin has been convicted of dozens of federal charges including drug conspiracy and racketeering.

The jury of four men and eight women deliberated for 15 hours before finding Melvin guilty on Tuesday afternoon of all but six of his 43 charges. District Judge Cameron Currie ordered Melvin's bond revoked and U.S. Marshals took him into custody. He will be held until sentencing, scheduled for January.

Melvin resigned in May after he and 11 others were charged with conspiring to deal drugs. During his two-week trial, prosecutors played taped conversations they said showed Melvin conspiring to extort money from drug dealers in exchange for protection from investigation. Click here to read our full coverage of Melvin's arrest and trial.

Melvin's co-defendants testified against him, but the former sheriff's attorney said jurors shouldn't trust them because of deals cut with prosecutors.

Prosecutors call the verdict a win for agents who put themselves in the middle of what prosecutors called a dangerous underworld inside Lee County. "We had agents on the street, informants working this case and certainly I agree, any time an agent goes out on the street to investigate a case, they're putting their lives in danger and that's very important to us, we recognize that," said Assistant U.S. Attorney J.D. Rowell.

Melvin's brother, who sat through three days of the testimony in his brother's trial, placed none of the blame on his brother. "It's on [WIS reporter Jody Barr] and the prosecution, the false case that they put before my brother," said Edward Melvin. "As you know, those drug dealers... Come on, you know they fabricated their testimony, you know they did."

Additionally, Melvin's co-defendants were sentenced on Tuesday. "Career criminal" Gary Bernard Ervin was sentenced to 22 years in jail, and Eric Hickmon received a 17.5-year sentence. First-time offender Sheldon Maurice Bradley was sentenced to 10 years in jail, the mandatory minimum. Antonio Holloman received a 33-month sentence.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.