by: Greg Suskin Updated:
CHESTERFIELD, S.C. - Just over a year after his arrest, former Chesterfield County Sheriff Sam Parker is now on trial. He faces five counts of misconduct in office, embezzlement and furnishing contraband to inmates.
Parker chose to fight the charges at trial, rather than take a plea and possibly avoid jail time.
Several of the charges have to do with two specific inmates, Michael Lee and William Skipper. Both were on work detail in Chesterfield County for several years.
The indictment against Parker said Skipper and Lee were improperly supervised, or not at all, and were allowed to live outside the jail at the county armory.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigators said that for three to five years the two men drove Sheriff's Office vehicles, ate out, went shopping, visited friends, often out of state, wore personal clothes instead of prison clothes, had bank accounts, as well as ate and vacationed with the sheriff and his family. The criminal indictment also said they had access to drugs, guns and alcohol.
Not only does the indictment allege that both Skipper and Lee could drive Sheriff's Office vehicles, with no license, but it says on-duty deputies would sometimes run errands with them, and for them.
In exchange, investigators allege that Lee and Skipper did work for the sheriff. They refurbished the armory, built a rec building at the sheriff's house, decorated and cooked for private parties Parker hosted, prepared meals for him, and gave him gifts.
Parker is also accused of allegedly buying property with public money and using it for himself.
He's accused of buying a boat, trailer, ATV and a military truck, storing them at his home, and keeping them for his private use.
The indictment said he used the boat as a shrimp boat for family and friends.
He's also accused of falsifying records by using reserve deputes who had no training, yet wore uniforms, badges, and even patrolled the county.
Finally, the indictment alleges Parker gave a half dozen guns to people in exchange for favors, or just because they were friends -- guns that were county property.
On Monday, Parker did not speak to reporters, but referred us to his lawyer. His trial is expected to last a week or more.
Parker has no plans to vanish from the public eye. He filed to run for sheriff again, and is on the ballot for a primary election in June.
As of late Monday, court officials said the judge planned to seat a jury before adjourning for the day.
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