Ex-sheriff Metts plans new plea with no sentence deal
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS/AP) - Former Lexington County Sheriff James Metts has signed a new plea deal that does not recommend he stay out of prison in a federal bribery case.
Court documents show Metts, his attorneys and prosecutors signed the agreement over the weekend.
"This is different in two respects," former U.S. attorney Pete Strom said. "His guaranteed probation deal is done and he reserves his right to appeal in this case."
Similar to the last plea deal, there is no clause stating that Metts has to cooperate with the State or testify against other defendants.
"That would be the best thing for our community," Strom said, "so we could put all this to bed as opposed to still wondering whether the fix was in on this or really what happened here.
Metts is charged with taking bribes from a restaurant owner in exchange for preventing the deportation of some of his employees who were in the country illegally.
Last week, a federal judge rejected a deal that would have let Metts plead guilty to one of 10 counts in exchange for a sentence recommendation of a three-year probation.
The new deal is for the same charge but makes no sentence recommendation. The charge carries a possible 10-year prison sentence, but the recommended range is 10 to 16 months.
Strom says Metts could appear in court to officially plead guilty as soon as early January. If Judge Terry Wooten accepts the plea deal, he could render his sentence as soon as March.
Strom also notes that it would be difficult to find jurors that didn't know who Sheriff Metts was, or that he attempted to plead guilty twice, if they were going to trial.
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