RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The attorney for ex-Columbia police chief Randy Scott believes new charges stemming from weapons found inside his home during a search last month are a personal attack courtesy of Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.
On Thursday, Scott was given a $2,000 personal recognizance bond for each of his two charges of breach of trust with fraudulent intent.
According to the Richland County Sheriff's Department, the charges are a result of a search warrant issued for Scott's residence last month. The search warrant was issued after Scott was arrested on drug charges after a search at his home for a wanted fugitive.
During his bond hearing Thursday, investigators with RCSD argued Scott did not return two pistols and a gun lock box given to him while employed with the sheriff's department and Columbia police.
Another former RCSD deputy, Lisa Grazioli, is charged with breach of trust. Grazioli was living with Scott at the time of his arrest in July and investigators said the search warrant also turned up a shotgun which belonged to the sheriff's department. She was given a $1,000 PR bond.
Mark Schnee, the attorney representing both Scott and Grazioli, said the charges are unfounded.
"People have somewhat forgetful memories and accidental oversight and that's fine for everyone except for a department you don't have that excuse," he said. "You need to know where your stuff is."
Schnee said the sheriff's department was unaware the weapons were missing until they were discovered during the search of Scott's house.
"Clearly they don't write anything down," he said. "There is no criminal act on anyone's part. It's at best some sloppiness and forgetfulness."
Scott is accused of failing to return a .40 Glock to the sheriff's department following his resignation in 2016. He is also accused of holding onto a .9 mm pistol that allegedly belonged to the Columbia Police Department before he resigned in 2013.
Schnee said the Glock had been in a safe and untouched for years. He said it was given to Scott as a weapon to offer other deputies while on the force in case they were in need of one due to their service weapon being out of service.
As for the .9 mm gun, his attorney said it was never city property.
"The gun they're claiming he never returned to the city...it was never purchased by the city," Schnee said. "He purchased that with his own money directly from the FN manufacturing plant."
Grazioli began her career on patrol and ended it as a school resource officer, according to Schnee. As a result, she was issued a shotgun while assigned to patrol but no longer needed it when she transitioned to the role of a resource officer.
"It sat in a locked gun safe for the last five years or so," he said. "I don't believe she even remembered it was there."
He said when Grazioli resigned from the department citing medical reasons, her supervisor came to her house to collect all of her uniforms and equipment.
"Never did he mention the shotgun," Schnee said. "He collected everything else including her service weapon, but nowhere was it noted she was issued a shotgun and it needed collected."
Now, the attorney points to the possibility of what else could be missing and how much it potentially costs taxpayers.
"There's definitely a lot of equipment that they can't account for and we're paying for as taxpayers," he said, "And we're paying to replace because somebody says I need 'X' and they can't say, oh well you've already been issued that so where is it?"
Schnee said the prosecution of Scott in particular is personal and said Sheriff Leon Lott is looking to embarrass his client.
"The prosecution is nothing more than vindictiveness, there's no criminal act on any side and they already know that," he said. "They should be more embarrassed they didn't know where their own stuff was."
The Columbia Police department declined to comment on the case but offered its policy on service weapons.
Per policy, "When employment is terminated for any reason, all uniforms and issued equipment items will be returned to the Equipment/Supply Unit." It goes on to say, "Employees gr anted a Leave of Absence for non-departmental activities exceeding one month will return all uniforms and equipment to the Equipment/Supply Unit."
WIS reached out to the Richland County Sheriff's Department for a copy of department policy but has yet to receive it. RCSD Public Information Officer Captain Maria Yturria issued a statement that read, "We have no further statements or comments regarding Scott's or Grazioli's charges at this time."
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