The state Attorney General’s Office refused to release the additional details about misconduct by former Abbeville County Sheriff Charles Goodwin after a Freedom of Information Act request from The Index-Journal of Greenwood.
Goodwin resigned last month, several days before he was indicted and pleaded guilty to misconduct in office. He was sentenced to five years of probation, 100 hours of community service and restitution of nearly $4,500.
Prosecutors said he used a state inmate to wash cars and fix a lawnmower. Goodwin also admitted to taking $4,445 in kickbacks for sending county-owned cars to a certain body shop.
During Goodwin’s guilty plea, prosecutors did not identify the inmate or name the body shop.
The attorney general’s office told the newspaper it can’t release additional details because the case was heard by the state grand jury and South Carolina law requires matters that go before a grand jury be kept secret.
It is the same reason the office used to deny releasing a State Law Enforcement Division report into ex-Saluda County Sheriff Jason Booth, who pleaded guilty to using an inmate to build a party shed on his land last year.
“Our practice is to release when we’re allowed to, but when we’re bound by the law, we have to maintain the law. If a telephone book is presented to the grand jury, I can’t release that telephone book. We don’t get a say in that,” said Mark Powell, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.
First Amendment lawyer Jay Bender said he disagrees with the attorney general’s office’s position. Bender said he has spoken to lawyers at the agency about reaching an agreement to release more information. He is hopeful the issue can be resolved without going to court.
“I’m still trying to persuade the attorney general’s office that’s not an appropriate interpretation of the law, but they’re quite understandably reluctant to release information,” Bender said.