The S.C. Supreme Court has issued a public reprimand to a former Camden city attorney for dismissing criminal charges in certain types of cases in exchange for unofficial payments by defendants into a city “drug fund.”
In its order, filed Wednesday, the high court said Charles Cushman has admitted he shouldn’t have used the unofficial diversion program, especially in light of a 2003 Supreme Court public order warning city attorneys and others that such diversion programs – which lacked input from prosecutors – were prohibited.
In 2011, 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson contacted Cushman and told him that his practice of dismissing cases in exchange for drug fund donations was “illegal and should be stopped,” according to the order.
Cushman, who prosecuted cases for the town for 25 years, did not stop.
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Last September, at the solicitor’s prompting, an arrest warrant was sworn out against Cushman on a charge of misconduct in office, alleging that he breached his official duties by inappropriately allowing charges to be dismissed.
He has since pleaded guilty to violating a section of the law that effectively prohibits an attorney from deliberately ignoring laws he is supposed to be upholding. His law license was temporarily suspended. He also served three hours in jail and paid $130 in court costs.
In his defense, Cushman told officials that he believed his actions to be appropriate and that he was just continuing a practice long followed by previous city attorneys. He also said he sought the donations only in cases that he believed would have resulted in acquittal.
In its order, the Supreme Court lifted the interim suspension of Cushman’s law license, effectively allowing him to practice law again.
Camden City Council put him on unpaid leave in September. He resigned after that.