Originally created 05/03/01

Man gets probation for threats



AIKEN - A North Augusta man who threatened a man he thought was a state representative and later held police in a standoff last year will surrender his weapons and undergo psychiatric treatment in return for a probationary sentence.

Harold D. Nichols, a Vietnam veteran who suffers flashbacks, agreed to continue treatment at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta in return for a negotiated sentence of two years' probation. He pleaded guilty to unlawful use of telephone, and in exchange 2nd Circuit Solicitor Barbara R. Morgan dismissed charges related to a police standoff Feb. 23, 2000.

"We were concerned about the safety of the public," Ms. Morgan said after the hearing. "As long as he's on his medicine, he's not a threat to the community or himself."

Mr. Nichols, 57, of Goldman Street, called David Wilkins of Aiken several times in 1999 and threatened to kill him. Police say the man thought he was calling the David Wilkins who serves as the speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives and has taken an adamant stance against video poker. The speaker actually lives in Greenville. An investigation by the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division led to Mr. Nichols' arrest.

While awaiting trial on that charge, North Augusta authorities say they received a call about Mr. Nichols screaming profanities at parents and children at North Augusta Elementary School on Feb. 23, 2000. When police arrived at the suspect's home, he wielded a pistol, ran back into his home and cursed officers, screaming about his constitutional rights and how he served his country in the Vietnam War, authorities said.

Twenty officers and one SLED agent waited outside the home for nearly two hours before Mr. Nichols' attorney, James Whittle of Aiken, persuaded him to surrender. A subsequent search of the suspect's home turned up two pistols, four rifles, a shotgun, two machetes, a sword, an air rifle and numerous boxes of ammunition, authorities said.

After his arrest in 1999, Mr. Nichols was taken to the William S. Hall Institute in Columbia for a mental evaluation. After 11 days and a review by a private psychiatrist, doctors determined that he was competent but requires medication.

Ms. Morgan said she has reserved the right to refile criminal charges against Mr. Nichols should he get into trouble again.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 648-1395.