South Carolina Rep. Thad Viers resigns amid harassment investigation

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COLUMBIA — South Carolina Rep. Thad Viers resigned Wednesday amid accusations that he harassed an ex-girlfriend.

Viers made his announcement on the House floor. He said Marlboro County’s chief prosecutor will seek an indictment against him Thursday and that he must focus on his defense.

The Myrtle Beach Republican called it a “politically motivated matter over a few love letters.”

A woman answering the phone for Solicitor William Rogers said the office will not comment or confirm anything involving Viers’ case.

Viers was arrested in January after his ex-girlfriend told investigators he continued to call, text, e-mail and show up at her home and workplace for more than five months after they broke up.

Shortly after his arrest, Viers announced he was ending his bid for a congressional seat in the new 7th District and also wouldn’t run for his state House seat in 2012. He said then he had no intention of stepping down early. However, he has been absent for much of the session.

The arrest came nearly four years after he pleaded no contest to threatening to beat and sexually assault a man dating his estranged wife. He paid a $500 fine in June 2007 for unlawful communication.

Viers, who turned 34 last week, noted that he’s spent nearly a third of life in the House. First elected in 2002, Viers earned his law degree from the University of South Carolina law school in 2007.

“I come very humbly,” Viers said at the podium. He went on to chastise prosecutors for pursuing his case while, he said, rapists and murderers go free.

After his arrest in January, Viers said he and the woman had dated for four years. He said he asked her to marry him on Dec. 16, and she said no.

According to police, the ex-girlfriend said she repeatedly asked the lawmaker to stop contacting her after she broke off their relationship in June or July, but that she was reluctant to press charges because she didn’t want to hurt Viers’ political career.

The woman wrote several letters to Viers asking him to stop, including one sent by her attorney. The woman’s father also sent his own letter after Viers sent him tickets to a sporting event, investigators said.

The woman finally went to police with a three-ring binder containing details of the calls, e-mails and texts, and on Dec. 16, a detective asked Viers to stop calling the woman, according to a police report.

But the woman told police that Viers contacted her on two more occasions, once by e-mail on Dec. 22 and again through a New Year’s Eve text sent from someone else’s cellphone, police said.

A special election will be held to pick a replacement for Viers until his term ends in January. Candidates can file for the seat next month. Primaries will follow in June and the special election in July, according to the state Election Commission.

Viers’ resignation comes nearly three weeks after former Republican Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned and pleaded guilty to seven misdemeanor counts of violating ethics law. He was sentenced to five years’ probation and 300 hours of public service.

In January, state Rep. Harold Mitchell Jr. was suspended from the House after his indictment on felony charges.

The state grand jury’s indictment came after the Revenue Department claimed Mitchell, D-Spartanburg, didn’t file state individual income tax returns on time between 2005 and 2008, filed delinquent returns in 2009 and tried to avoid paying $7,000 in state taxes.

PANELS ADVANCE BILLS

• A bill approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary subcommittee Wednesday would make the director of state insurance agency an elected position, putting South Carolina in line with 11 other states. If approved, the first election for the post would happen in 2014. Two of the last three people to hold the post have resigned.

• Home-schooled students in South Carolina could play sports at their local public school under a measure advanced by a Senate panel. A separate bill approved Wednesday by the full Senate would give the option to students in public charter schools that don’t offer sports. Opponents say they worry such students could take the slots of students at the school.

• A House panel Ways and Means subcommittee approved a measure giving tax breaks for renovations of blighted buildings, a move lawmakers from both parties said they hope could breathe life into tiny, worn main streets and decrepit strip malls.

– Associated Press


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