James Metts trial date set for January - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Metts: 'This trial is nothing more than an attempt to discredit me'

Former Sheriff James R. Metts leaves federal court Wednesday morning. Former Sheriff James R. Metts leaves federal court Wednesday morning.
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS/AP) -

The federal corruption trial for suspended Lexington County Sheriff James Metts is scheduled to begin in January.

South Carolina's longest-serving sheriff appeared for a pretrial conference before U.S. Judge Terry Wooten in federal court Wednesday morning. Wooten set the trial date for January 20. The trial is expected to last two weeks.

"This trial is nothing more than an attempt to discredit me, and we're going to prove, through our attorneys, that we are innocent as we've always been," Metts said after Wednesday morning's hearing. "Justice, I believe, will prevail."

"I'm confident that as we go forward that we're going to win this case. I haven't done anything wrong, I said that in the very beginning," Metts continued. "I have competent attorneys who I am trusting and I'm ready to get this trial started."

"We're prepared to go to trial at any point in time," Metts said. "I want to exercise my rights under the Constitution as I have provided for other people for 48 years."

LISTEN TO METTS' FULL STATEMENT BY CLICKING HERE: http://www.wistv.com/clip/10544244/raw-james-metts-talks-publicly-for-the-first-time-since-indictment

Jury selection is scheduled for January 12th. Wooten will consider whether the jury will include people from all 46 counties in South Carolina, instead of the Columbia, Florence and Rock Hill areas, where jurors in most cases tried in Columbia are usually selected.

Metts was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of public corruption and accepting bribes back in June. He is free on $100,000 bond.

The 10-count federal indictment claimed Metts received cash from former Lexington Town Councilman Danny Frazier and Greg Leon, who owns several Mexican restaurants in the Columbia area, to give preferential treatment to undocumented immigrants and keep them out of a federal immigration database.

Frazier is accused of being the middle man between Metts and Leon.

Metts pleaded not guilty to the charges in July.

Federal officials have indefinitely suspended the program in Lexington County designed to help local officials deal with inmates who are suspected to be foreign-born criminals.

After Metts was suspended in June, Lewis McCarty was sworn in and is currently serving as Lexington County's Sheriff.

If convicted, Metts could get up to 20 years in prison. He is the eighth sheriff in South Carolina to be charged or investigated in the last four years.

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