(Columbia) Aug. 3, 2005 - A former spokesman for the governor says he's innocent of the domestic violence charges against him, but he's changing his plea to guilty anyway.
Folks explained to WIS why he's not fighting the charges, "I'm not going to engage in going after somebody that I frankly still love, still care about, whose family I still love and still care about just to defend myself for something I know I didn't do."
The change came after Governor Mark Sanford made comments about the case against Will Folks, calling it a "very stupid and tragic mistake."
He didn't want to speak on camera, but Will Folks did speak to WIS about the case Saturday, "If the man I helped get elected governor and worked side-by-side with for four years has already decided that I'm guilty of a 'stupid and tragic mistake,' then I guess my luck with 12 people I've never met before probably isn't all that great."
Folks is referring to comments the Governor made to the Associated Press. Sanford saying that while he had called to check on Folks, he could in no way condone "wrong behaviors."
And Folks cited another reason as well, "But I'm also trying to do what's best in terms of not having a situation where guys think, oh, well, open season."
Folks' version of the events that led to his arrest ran in the State newspaper as a op-ed piece.
Folks continually claims that he's not using his former position to gain media access, but Folks says that there is a difference caused by his position. For most, "it doesn't run eight nights on the news."
Part of the charge against Folks is that he pushed his fiance, causing bruising. When asked whether he tends to get abusive, Folks responded, "It's just not me."
And about verbal abusiveness, he says, "You talk to some reporters, they may say that. I think there's a back and forth in any, whether it's in a personal relationship or whether it's in the political arena. People have disagreements."
So what happened?
Folks says, ""There's a perception that here's this guy, drives over to a place, kicks in a door, grabs a woman and throws her against the furniture. And that's the perception, you know. I've had people say were you drinking? Well no. I woke up at the house where I live that morning, essentially got thrown out, went back in to get my stuff and was physically blocked from leaving my own house."
"It may have been that in some contact of trying to get around her, that I caused her to lose her balance. There was absolutely though no grabbing, no intentional pushing, it was an accident. It was not an attack."
And as far as reconciliation, "I don't think you get past something like this, I really don't. I love her. We were going to take a honeymoon to Greece, that we were both incredibly excited about. We talked about having kids and the miracle that goes along with that family life."
Folks says he wants his version on the record, because he claims that the case has turned into a circus, thanks in part to opponents of his former boss, the Governor, "My arrest got leaked by Sen. Knotts, who's an ardent opponent of the Governor. Although I don't blame her for this, Ashley's lawyer is a guy who's a political opponent. I'm not going to do that. If that political machine wants to come after me, fine. They win. I'm not going to engage in that kind of back and forth about something that's part of my personal life."
Senator Knotts told News 10 that he certainly doesn't have a problem with the Governor or Will Folks. He doesn't care what he got arrested for, "What's political about a man beating a woman? He needs to be more concerned about not beating a woman than who leaked the story." Knotts added that he did not leak the story.
And Larry Richter, the attorney representing his former fiance, told WIS that Sanford is a friend of his. Richter says he supports him fully, and he also issued a statement on behalf of his client saying, "The victim in the case plans to be present at Will Folks' disposition, and will make complete and truthful statements at that proceeding."
Folks says it's because of who he is, that he is in this predicament. "Folks from the police department have actually said, if it wasn't you, we would have dropped it, we wouldn't have issued a warrant. We didn't want to look like we were doing any political favors."
The Columbia Police Department said they were not in a position to comment but the Department has gone on the record in the past about its no drop policy regarding criminal domestic violence cases.
Folks commented on the no-drop policy too, "I absolutely think the laws ought to stay how they are. A lot of people think no drop is stupid...but let me tell you, when we get to 48th or 49th in the country in domestic violence I'll start listening to those people. Until we get there, we need to be hard on it."
He now says he wants to put the incident behind him, saying, "I'd rather get convicted of something I know in my heart I didn't do than put my family and Ashley's family through any more unnecessary suffering. It's time for everybody to move on."
Folks told WIS on Saturday, "That's ok, because God knows and I know what happened, and if I'm innocent in the heavenly court then I guess the legal court and the court of public opinion really don't matter all that much."
In changing his plea to guilty to criminal domestic violence, Folks is requesting pre-trial intervention. If he's accepted into the program, Folks may be required to perform community service, and take other steps such as counseling or paying restitution, in exchange for clearing the first-time offender's record.