Former Lexington County Sheriff James Metts receives 12 months in prison

Sheriff James Metts receives 12 months in prison
Published: Apr. 27, 2015 at 2:47 PM EDT|Updated: May. 15, 2015 at 2:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Former Lexington County Sheriff James Metts has received 12 months and one day in prison, a $10,000 fine and two years supervised release, a judge ruled Monday afternoon.

Judge Terry Wooten delivered the sentence on Monday, effectively putting an end to an almost year-long chapter that book-ended Metts' 42-year storied law enforcement career.

Wooten did not consider Metts' age, health, or charitable work in his sentence.

Metts, 68, appeared remorseful before the crowded court, telling Wooten the day he was indicted was the day that he "literally lost [his] life."

"I regret making a mistake, but no man is perfect," Metts said. "I am broken. This may be a pipe dream but I want to rebuild a reputation that was lost to a mistake."

Metts became emotional and against the advice of his attorney, he continued to speak to say that it pained him to no end to know how he let his wife and children down. He said they are the ones to suffer.

Metts asked for leniency from the court due to his severe medical problems and feared that he may not come out alive if he was given a sentence.

The ex-sheriff publicly also apologized to his family, former co-workers at the sheriff's department, and the citizens of Lexington County.

The former sheriff pleaded guilty in December on a charge of helping to harbor illegal aliens. He admitted on four occasions to making calls which led to immigrants being released from the Lexington County Detention Center.

Prosecutors say in doing so, Metts and his co-conspirators knew the immigrants were present in the United States illegally.

Wooten asked Metts why he would allow himself to get roped into the matter considering his position in the community.

"I have no real explanation other than I got caught up in trying to help people," Metts said. "I trusted people I shouldn't have."

Metts' attorneys argued during his sentencing hearing that he shouldn't get prison time due to his health, his age, and his public service record.

After the hearing, Metts walked straight to a group of reporters waiting outside the courthouse.

"I'm highly disappointed at the judge's decision, but I'm not questioning his decision," Metts said in a brief statement. "I'm going to go ahead and deal with this in a very positive way. I'm going to serve my time. Put it behind me."

"At least now we're going to have closure and I'm going to get on with my life," he said, before walking away without taking questions.

"It's obviously a sad day for law enforcement any time someone is convicted and serves time for a federal felony," federal prosecutor Jay Richardson told reporters after the hearing.

"We're pleased with the result," he said. "What's important here for the government was to ensure that people like Mr. Metts, who commit these crimes, are punished for them."

The prosecutor said Lexington County was "operating under a 'good old boy' system."

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