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October 2, 2012

Richland County girl’s alleged kidnapper pleads ‘not guilty’ to federal ammunition charge

The man accused of kidnapping a missing Richland County teenager pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal ammunition charges.

The man accused of kidnapping a missing Richland County teenager pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal ammunition charges.

Freddie Grant, 52, was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Columbia on one count of being a felon in possession of ammunition. His case was assigned to a judge, and attorneys were given an Oct. 22 deadline for filing motions. He is being held without bond at the Lexington County Detention Center, which houses federal prisoners.

The maximum penalty if he is convicted is 10 years in prison. However, that penalty could increase to 15 years if a judge determines Grant is an armed career criminal with three prior convictions for violent crimes or serious drug offenses.

Grant, handcuffed and dressed in an orange jail uniform, said little during the hearing, only answering “yes” when asked if he understood the charges and had met with his attorneys about them.

After the hearing, Grant’s attorney, Langdon Long, a federal public defender, declined comment. Richland County public defender Fielding Pringle, who is representing Grant on a pending circuit court kidnapping charge, also attended the hearing and declined comment.

Grant was arrested on the federal charges in August after FBI agents discovered .38-caliber bullets and shotgun shells in his home as they were searching for Gabrielle Swainson, a 15-year-old Ridge View High School student who has been missing since Aug. 18. Grant was not allowed to possess the ammunition because of a previous conviction for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, according to court documents.

Gabrielle disappeared in the early morning hours after her mother, Elvia Swainson, left for work. Elvia Swainson and Grant had been involved in a relationship.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department has charged Grant with kidnapping in the case. The warrant has not been served.

Grant’s mother and one of his brothers attended the hearing. Afterward, Johnny Grant said he visits his brother twice a week in jail. He said they do not talk about the pending charges because it would be improper.

Johnny Grant said Tuesday’s hearing was a legal formality.

“It’s what they have to do,” he said. “Anybody can trump up charges. They don’t have to be valid.”

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