Originally created 05/15/98

Suspect release refused



NORTH AUGUSTA -- Bond on drug distribution and weapons charges was denied Wednesday to a co-owner of the Seven Gables Restaurant as police continued their investigation into an alleged interstate drug conspiracy.

The restaurant, formerly the Buffalo Room, gained notoriety in 1989 after the owners at the time, Bruce and Rose Salter, barred six black government and NAACP officials from eating at the bar and grill. State revenue officials yanked the beer-and-wine permit.

It was allowed to reopen only under the ownership of the couple's sons, Randy and James Salter, in November 1996.

In Edgefield County, S.C., Assistant Solicitor Ervin Maye said Texas authorities could seek the return of Randy Salter to their jurisdiction on pending drug charges related to a May 2 arrest in Corpus Christi.

"He has more serious charges out of Texas, so he may possibly be returned back to Texas," Mr. Maye said. "We're not sure about that."

Mr. Maye said the Texas charges against Randy Salter involve seizure by police of $60,000 found with Mr. Salter at a Corpus Christi motel and 99 pounds of marijuana recovered at a residence.

A Ford Crown Victoria "outfitted to look like an undercover police car" was also seized, Mr. Maye said.

He said he will discuss the situation with Texas officials to decide what will be done.

Randy Salter is being held at the Edgefield County jail on charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon.

He was arrested at his West Martintown Road home Tuesday when police executed a search warrant and seized weapons, narcotics, explosives and documents. A second warrant was issued in Aiken County for a search of the Seven Gables on Georgia Avenue in North Augusta.

Police said they found narcotics, explosives, weapons and documents at the residence. Mr. Maye said the weapons were a shotgun and a handgun.

Financial records were seized at the restaurant, and Mr. Maye said weapons and a small amount of narcotics were also found.

Deputy Solicitor Lawrence Brown in Aiken County said no decision has been made on whether criminal charges will be filed here as a result of the restaurant search.

Two others, a man and a woman whose names couldn't be confirmed Thursday, were also arrested and charged with Mr. Salter, who was released on bond in Texas on May 6. Mr. Maye said Randy Salter returned to South Carolina a day or two later, and Texas authorities contacted local police in South Carolina.

Meanwhile, the Seven Gables reopened for business Thursday after remaining closed for a day. Contacted by phone, George Poston, who holds the eatery's beer-and-wine permit, said he would have no comment on the investigation.

Mr. Maye said Randy Salter has several prior convictions. State tax revenue documents related to the revocation of the restaurant's liquor license in 1989 stated Mr. Salter was convicted in 1982 on federal drug charges.

However, Mr. Maye said he was convicted in Atlanta in 1982 on charges of conveying threats. In 1987 he was convicted in North Carolina on state charges involving conspiracy to traffic 10,000 pounds in marijuana. He also was convicted in Charleston on federal charges of conspiracy to traffic 36 tons of marijuana.

Mr. Maye said North Carolina sentenced Mr. Salter to eight years to run concurrent with his federal sentence of 10 years. He served four years.