Originally created 02/16/01

Gunman gets life sentence



AIKEN - An Aiken County jury returned guilty verdicts late Thursday against Charles Dublin for a 1998 drug-related killing in Salley, the defendant's second murder conviction from that year.

Circuit Judge James R. Barber III sentenced him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, a mandatory sentence in South Carolina after convictions for violent crimes.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for 3´ hours before returning guilty verdicts on five charges, including murder, armed robbery, attempted armed robbery, assault and battery with intent to kill, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

Given a chance to address the judge before sentencing, Mr. Dublin said nothing.

Mr. Dublin's accomplice in the crime, Ricky Tolliver, accepted a plea agreement to testify against Mr. Dublin and received a 25-year jail sentence.

Michael Hillard, brother of murder victim Tony Rainey, thanked the judge and said the life sentence would bring closure for the family.

During the case, Assistant Solicitor Ben Moore provided evidence that Mr. Dublin and co-defendant Mr. Tolliver went to the home of drug dealer Christopher Corbitt on April 10, 1998, because they were told by a friend that it was a drug house with lots of cash. In fact, the friend had paid cash for $4,200 worth of crack earlier that day, and Mr. Dublin and Mr. Tolliver went back to rob the drug sellers.

Inside the home, Mr. Dublin demanded money and fatally shot Tony Rainey in the chest when he didn't immediately turn the money over, Mr. Moore said.

The second victim, Mr. Corbitt, lured the robbers outside and was shot in the buttocks when he tried to run away. Mr. Corbitt, who is serving time for drug dealing, survived.

In a trial where two witnesses invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, defense attorney Jim Huff summed up the case in closing arguments as a search for the truth.

"When the ship's going down, the rats want to get off," he said. "Everybody that's testified here has got a reason."

Mr. Moore told jurors the defense attorney could nitpick all he wanted but could not get around eyewitnesses who picked Mr. Dublin out of photo lineups. The prosecutor said Mr. Corbitt clearly saw Mr. Dublin as the shooter.

"Christopher Corbitt is not going to forget the cold eyes of the person who made him get down on his knees and watch his friend die," Mr. Moore said.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 648-1395.