10/23/2019 1:05:00 PM Sheriff on trial; prosecutor says he hired woman to get sex
Jeffrey Collins Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina sheriff hired a young woman as his personal assistant for more than $60,000 a year to persuade her into a sexual relationship, prosecutors said at his trial.
The lawyer for suspended Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis said the sex was consensual and while cheating on his wife was immoral, he did nothing illegal.
Lewis is in a courtroom in his own county this week, his law enforcement career and even his freedom at stake as his trial on two counts of misconduct in office unfolds. His wife is sitting beside him as salacious details of his private life spill off the witness stand.
South Carolina has a broad misconduct law, which allows prosecutors to pursue charges against any public officials who do not properly and faithfully perform their jobs. The prosecutors in Lewis’ case said the sheriff misused county money to hire a woefully unqualified person for an unnecessary position and then used county resources like his cellphone to continue the relationship.
Lewis’ lawyer Rauch Wise suggested the state would not have charged Lewis if he failed at his job in other ways, like showing up for work 30 minutes late every day, and wanted to punish him for cheating on his wife.
The man running the sheriff’s office now has a personal assistant who makes even more money, Wise said.
“The only things the state uses to make those things seem evil, sinister or bad is he had an affair,” Wise said in his opening statement.
Lewis hired Savanah Nabors after his 2016 election, paying the then 22-year-old $62,000 a year and giving her a county vehicle and other perks to groom her into a sexual relationship, prosecutor Willy Thompson said in his opening statement.
Nabors herself testified Tuesday, saying Lewis made her feel honored and important, having the county buy her a fitted bullet proof vest and giving her an assigned parking space in the crowded sheriff’s office parking lot.
Other deputies testified the sheriff and assistant giggled and seemed overly friendly. Lewis told them Nabors was a family friend and babysat his children. Nabors said she only knew Lewis through her job as a paralegal and thought of him like a big brother.
Shortly after taking office, Nabors said Lewis invited her to a county budget retreat in Charlotte, North Carolina, drinking with her at a hotel and talking about problems he was having with his wife until she passed out or fell asleep. She said she woke up, and he was on top of her.
Nabors testified she didn’t tell anyone at first and never sought criminal charges because she felt sick and blamed herself and later a lawyer she hired suggested it was a bad idea.
“Having sex with my boss was not what I signed up for,” Nabors testified.
Other witnesses include deputies who testified Lewis let Nabors, who had no police training, into crime scenes, including a shooting that involved a police officer. They testified she also got special training at BMW’s driving center in nearby Greer and went out on SWAT calls.
“How do you explain taking a civilian into a crime scene?” testified Greenville County Sheriff’s Maj. Ty Miller, the highest-ranking member on the force who Nabors eventually confided her relationship before writing a blog about it.
Miller said her own son was about Nabors age and she couldn’t get over the sheriff’s conduct. “She wasn’t a child. But she was really vulnerable. Relay impressionable,” Miller said.
After Nabors quit, Lewis offered suggestions to Miller and others looking to hire her replacement. Miller testified Lewis showed the group a picture of a young woman, touting her experience in beauty pageants.
Miller said the suggestion was ignored.
“Perception was already bad. We didn’t need a Tennessee beauty queen following him around,” Miller said.
Lewis has suggested he may testify. The state rested its case Wednesday morning.
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