COLUMBIA — A fourth sheriff in less than three years is facing criminal charges in South Carolina.
The State Grand Jury indicted Chesterfield County Sheriff Sam Parker late Tuesday on four counts of misconduct in office and two counts of furnishing contraband to inmates. Each charge is a misdemeanor, carrying up to 10 years in prison.
Parker used state inmates to work on his home and personal property and in exchange, he allowed the inmates to live outside jail, go shopping and eat out at restaurants, prosecutors said.
Authorities did not detail what kind of work the inmates did or how often they were allowed out from behind bars.
A message left for Parker after hours Tuesday was not returned. A sergeant with the sheriff’s office said he had not heard of the charges and told a reporter to call back Wednesday morning. It wasn’t known if Parker had a lawyer.
State Attorney General’s Office spokesman Mark Powell said that as far as he knew, Parker remained sheriff Tuesday evening in Chesterfield County.
Parker is a veteran lawman, having worked for the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office before taking a job with the State Law Enforcement Division. He was first sworn in as sheriff in 2003.
Three of the four South Carolina sheriffs who have recently faced criminal charges have been accused of misusing state inmates.
Former Saluda County Sheriff Jason Booth pleaded guilty to misconduct in office last year for using an inmate to build a party shed and other items on his land. Booth paid a $900 fine. Former Abbeville County Sheriff Charles Goodwin admitted he took kickbacks on repairs on county vehicles and used a state inmate to do personal work and was sentenced to five years of probation in January.
Former Lee County sheriff E.J. Melvin was arrested in May 2010 and is serving 17 years in federal prison for drug conspiracy and racketeering.