Indicted SCDC employees say fed charges 'unnecessary' since all - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Indicted SCDC employees say fed charges 'unnecessary' since all have served time for state charges

Multiple South Carolina corrections employees are facing federal charges related to bribery and bringing contraband into SC prisons (Source: WIS) Multiple South Carolina corrections employees are facing federal charges related to bribery and bringing contraband into SC prisons (Source: WIS)
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

As state and federal investigators detailed crimes of bribery and smuggling contraband into South Carolina prisons, attorneys for the 14 former state Department of Corrections employees indicted say the federal charges are "unnecessary." 

Appearing in federal court Wednesday, all 14 handcuffed and shackled defendants entered not guilty pleas as their attorneys told the court they had already faced and served time for similar state charges. 

Attorney Lori Murray went so far as to say the feds were "making an example" of the 14 defendants after the violent and deadly prison riot over contraband cell phones at Lee Correctional Institution back in mid-April. 

"In my opinion, this should be a state charge," Murray said.

Murray went further and said she'd never seen anything like what happened in Judge Shiva Hodges' chambers.

Still, all 14 have been hit with the following federal charges.

  • Douglas Hawkins -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery and honest services wire fraud conspiracy
  • Frank Pridgeon -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery, honest services wire fraud conspiracy, and possession with intent to distribute narcotics
  • Sharon Breeland -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery, honest services wire fraud conspiracy, and possession with intent to distribute narcotics
  • Shatara Wilson -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery, honest services wire fraud conspiracy, and possession with intent to distribute narcotics
  • Rachel Burgess -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery, honest services wire fraud conspiracy, and possession with intent to distribute narcotics
  • Miguel Williams -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery and honest services wire fraud conspiracy
  • James Harvey -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery and honest services wire fraud conspiracy
  • Darnell Kleckley -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery, honest services wire fraud conspiracy, and possession with intent to distribute narcotics
  • Joshua Cave -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery and honest services wire fraud conspiracy
  • Camille Williams -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery and honest services wire fraud conspiracy
  • Jamal Early -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery, honest services wire fraud conspiracy, and possession with intent to distribute narcotics
  • Catherine Prosser -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery, honest services wire fraud conspiracy, and possession with intent to distribute narcotics
  • Holly Mitchem -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery and honest services wire fraud conspiracy
  • Robert Hill -- use of interstate facility to facilitate bribery, honest services wire fraud conspiracy, and possession with intent to distribute narcotics

Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney's Office, SLED, the FBI, and Corrections Department officials held a news conference to lay out the feds' claims and once again go on the attack against cell phones in prisons.

"The South Carolina Department of Corrections is facing a crisis in contraband," U.S. Attorney Beth Drake said. "It affects safety and security of our institutions. It affects safety and security of our communities."

Drake and others pointed to several cases as examples of bad behavior made worse by cell phones. 

"Cell phones can be and are being used to conduct significant criminal activity from inside the walls of our prisons," Drake said.

Specifically, the group focused on the Michael Young case and the would-be assassination of former corrections officer Capt. Robert Johnson.

Young was recently convicted of charges that he used a contraband cell phone to purchase a bomb to send to his ex-wife. Johnson, meanwhile, was almost killed after an Lee Correctional inmate put a hit on him using a cell phone.

The FBI said they are continuing to investigate corruption in South Carolina.

"The message is very simple: if you are in a position of public trust and breaking the law, you can stop, or you can be the one behind bars," FBI Special Agent Jody Norris said. "It's up to you." 

Copyright 2018 WIS. All rights reserved.

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