Former Lee County sheriff back in Midlands, sentencing delayed

E.J. Melvin February 2011 mugshot (Source: Lexington County Detention Center)
E.J. Melvin February 2011 mugshot (Source: Lexington County Detention Center)

By Jody Barr - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Former Lee County Sheriff E.J. Melvin is back in the Midlands awaiting a sentencing hearing that has been delayed twice.

U.S. Marshals moved Melvin from the Lexington County Detention Center to the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia just before Thanksgiving for "security reasons," but moved him back to the Lexington County Detention Center two weeks ago as federal probation officers finished a pre-sentencing report earlier this month.

A federal jury convicted the former two term sheriff in November for multiple counts of racketeering, drug conspiracy, extortion, using a telephone to further a drug conspiracy, lying to the FBI and money laundering. Melvin is also guilty of lying to the FBI.

Federal judge Cameron Currie originally scheduled Melvin's sentencing for Jan. 7, but has agreed to a second delay, pushing the sentencing date to mid-March.

The U.S. Probation Office sent Melvin's attorney a pre-sentencing report earlier this month. The report will help federal judge Cameron Currie when she sentences Melvin.  The report is 108 pages long and contains 467 paragraphs, according to Melvin's attorney, Jack Swerling. Melvin and Swerling have spent more than six hours reviewing the report inside Melvin's cell. Objections to the report were due Feb. 7, but in a court filing, Swerling asked the judge for an extension after the Columbia attorney became ill.

The judge has set a deadline of Noon on Feb. 16 for Melvin to file objections to the pre-sentencing report. The judge also pushed Melvin's sentencing date back from Feb. 23 to March 17. Currie also set aside a second day for the sentencing hearing, if needed. The delay came, according to the court filings, because of Swerling's illness.

Melvin faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison with the possibility of a life sentence.

US Assistant Attorney Mark Moore charged Melvin with 25 separate acts of racketeering. The jury only needed to find the former sheriff guilty of two acts; the jury convicted on all counts. The jury found Melvin not guilty of only four of the 17 telephone counts. The drug conspiracy conviction carries a minimum of 10 years, the additional charges could enhance the sentence the judge will level on Melvin.

After the court clerk read the verdict, the judge revoked Melvin's bond and ordered the U.S. Marshals to arrest the former sheriff and put him in jail until his sentencing hearing in January. Melvin was free since May 7 when he was set free on a $200,000 surety bond. The former sheriff was living with his girlfriend, Monisha Jones' Sumter home, where the FBI and SLED arrested him. Melvin's wife, Janet, filed for divorce in July on grounds of adultery. Melvin had 30 days to respond to the divorce filing, but court records show he ignored the summons.

Melvin was one of 14 people arrested in a suspect round up before dawn May 1. The sitting sheriff was caught extorting drug dealers and running a drug conspiracy over federal wire taps. The wire taps were in place for 30 days between March and April. In that time, the FBI and SLED had enough evidence to arrest Melvin and his co-defendants.

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