Sheriff's department works through sheriff's resignation

Published: Jun. 15, 2012 at 9:45 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 25, 2012 at 10:44 PM EDT
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Poster warning Saluda County drug dealers
Poster warning Saluda County drug dealers

SALUDA, SC (WIS) - A few years ago Sheriff Jason Booth put out a poster warning drug dealers they would be up against tough customers in Saluda County.

Booth followed in the footsteps of his father George, who held the same office in the 1980's. Jason Booth managed to serve 12 years, twice as long as his dad.

But his tenure came to a sudden end this week, two days after an indictment from the state Grand Jury.

It accuses Jason Booth of misconduct in office.  It's a charge centered on what authorities say was Booth's use of a prison inmate to do work on the sheriff's private property.

The indictment and Booth's resignation have severely shaken the sheriff's department.

"Nobody knew the outcome of course," said Chief Deputy W. R. Freeman. "And some of us knew there was an investigation. But we didn't know what was going to happen in the investigation. I'm a little shocked. I think even employees at the sheriff's office are a little shocked. Saddened."

Booth has not been available for comment since his resignation. His attorney did not return our call Friday.

Booth's attorney is former state and federal prosecutor Johnny Gasser.  Gasser is now a defense lawyer who has represented high profile clients including former Kershaw County jail officer Oddie Tribble and former Lt. Governor Ken Ard.

Freeman has spoken to Booth during the last few days.

"He was sad and I gave him a hug and told him I loved him and that was it," said Freeman.

Freeman is running the department for now, awaiting word from Governor Nikki Haley on who will be appointed interim sheriff.

The case is being prosecuted by the Second Circuit Solicitor's office, based in Aiken.  A spokeswoman there told us Friday that Booth would have a bond hearing, but that the hearing date has not yet been set.

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