Across South Carolina

Bail set for ex-sheriff charged in drug case


COLUMBIA --- A federal judge on Wednesday set bail of $200,000 for a former South Carolina sheriff, saying prosecutors had not proven arguments that E.J. Melvin represents a threat to other co-defendants in a drug conspiracy case.

As conditions of his release, Melvin isn't allowed to talk to any witnesses and will be on house arrest with electronic monitoring.

The former Lee County sheriff was arrested Saturday and charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of powder cocaine and 50 grams or more of crack cocaine.

If convicted, he could face at least 10 years in prison and a possible life sentence. Eight others have also been charged in the case.

Relying on wiretaps placed on his phone earlier this year, prosecutors argued that Melvin had made threats against other drug dealers and should be held until trial. Melvin also dealt drugs from his police SUV and, when he received a list of possible drug dealers, tipped off his friend and tried to extort money from others in exchange for steering agents away from them, prosecutors said.

Melvin had served as sheriff since 2001 and resigned shortly after his arrest. His lawyer said he won't be out on bond until later this week.

Top Democrat slams McMaster's findings

COLUMBIA --- One of the top Democrats in the state Senate is accusing state Attorney General Henry McMaster of whitewashing his ethics investigation of Gov. Mark Sanford.

Sen. Brad Hutto, of Orangeburg, said Wednesday that McMaster has blamed the Legislature for not writing laws clearly enough instead of finding fault with Sanford over his personal use of state planes.

Hutto said McMaster didn't reveal the outcome of his investigation for months but took hours to decide to sue over the federal health care overhaul.

McMaster released his investigation Monday. He said he could find nothing in the 37 charges the state Ethics Commission brought against the Republican governor that rose to the level of a criminal prosecution.

Sanford didn't contest the charges and paid $74,000 in civil fines.

McMaster's spokesman didn't immediately respond Wednesday.