GREENVILLE, S.C. — Saying he was embarrassed and humbled, former Abbeville County Sheriff Charles Goodwin pleaded guilty Friday to misconduct in office.
“I’m sorry for my actions. No excuses. I had a lapse of judgment and it was wrong,” said Goodwin, holding back tears.
Goodwin, 61, was accused of taking kickbacks on repairs on county vehicles and using a state inmate to do work for himself and his friends.
Goodwin had been scheduled for arraignment in Greenville County court, but attorney Chad Jenkins said his client wanted to plead guilty.
“He messed up. He knows it,” Jenkins told Judge Lawton McIntosh.
Jenkins also said there was no plea bargain – that his client wanted to do the right thing.
“That’s why we’re here today,” he said.
McIntosh sentenced Goodwin to 10 years in prison, then suspended the sentence and placed him on probation for five years. He also ordered Goodwin to pay nearly $4,500 in restitution and ordered him to conduct 100 hours of community service.
“It’s a sad day,” the judge said. “You violated the public trust.”
Goodwin, the sheriff since 1988, resigned earlier this week.
Prosecutors said Goodwin had county vehicles serviced at a body shop from January 1998 to November 2011 and took a share of the money the county was paying for the repairs. They also said Goodwin used inmates to repair cars for himself and his family members.
With his wife of more than 40 years seated beside him, Goodwin sat quietly as his attorney revealed details of the case. Jenkins said it began when authorities began investigating a sex tape involving his client.
Goodwin acknowledged in July that he was recorded on tape having sex more than a decade ago with a woman who was not his wife. The tape was sent around anonymously to a number of county residents. Goodwin would not discuss specifics but said the tape was made in 2001 and that his family had forgiven him. He won re-election in a three-way race in November with 47 percent of the vote.
Jenkins said authorities found no wrongdoing related to the tape. But when they talked to people in the community, they discovered the kickbacks.
He said Goodwin had been well-respected in the law enforcement community. He had served in law enforcement for nearly 40 years, first as an Abbeville police officer, then sheriff.
“He couldn’t be any more ashamed than he is right now,” Jenkins said.
After the hearing, prosecutors said they couldn’t discuss details of the case.
Goodwin is the third South Carolina sheriff to be indicted on criminal charges in less than three years. Former Lee County sheriff E.J. Melvin is serving 17 years in federal prison for drug conspiracy and racketeering, while 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.