Greenville and Pickens county authorities say there may be myriad reasons behind decisions not to extradite three dozen people from other states charged over the last decade with violent or sex crimes.
According to data collected from the FBI by USA TODAY, 26 cases of violent or sex crimes from Greenville County and 10 from Pickens County were flagged in a national warrant database for no extradition.
The outstanding warrants were among hundreds from South Carolina coded for in-state pickup only, according to USA TODAY. Horry County led the state with 104 no-extradition warrants for violent or sex crimes. About 84 percent of the total outstanding warrants from that county were no extradition warrants.
By comparison, about 9 percent of all outstanding warrants from Greenville County were no-extradition warrants, according to the data.
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Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins of Greenville said without knowing the individual case, he cannot say what went into the decision not to seek extradition for Greenville or Pickens county cases. But he said there are many possible reasons.
“The potential reasons could be the case in and of itself was not worthy of prosecution,” he said.
“It could be the person is doing a very long stint in prison somewhere else. If they are doing a life sentence in Georgia, then are we going to extradite them back for simple possession of a weapon or something like that? I don’t know. That’s up to the Sheriff’s Office.”
As time goes by, Wilkins said, the evidence in a case can change, such as the availability of witnesses.
His office consults with law enforcement agencies over extradition issues and helps them get warrants for extradition from the Governor’s Office when someone contests extradition, Wilkins said.
But the decision over extradition involves many factors, he said, including the merits of the case, and whether the defendant is serving a long prison sentence in the other jurisdiction.
“Do I want to send three guys to California for a guy who is doing a very long sentence there for a charge that is not that major or not that strong?” he asked.
“A lot of times what the Sheriff’s Office will do is just put a detainer on him and he’ll either have to force us to come get him if we want to prosecute him or not, and then the charge will just pend. It just sort of depends on the particular case.”
The USA TODAY database shows that most of the violent crimes marked for no extradition from Greenville County involve charges of aggravated assault, many involving family members. Most of the sex crimes concern charges of failure to register as a sex offender.
Greenville County Master Deputy Ron Bishop, who deals with extradition cases, said until recent years the penalty for failing to register as a sex offender carried a 30-day sentence, so the agency wouldn’t seek extradition if someone was charged with that offense. He said the law has since changed and authorities now seek extradition for that offense.
He said without knowing the individual name and case information, he couldn’t be sure why his department didn’t seek extradition on the other cases.
“Assaults are normally extraditable, unless it’s a very old case where we can’t reach the victim or something of that nature,” he said.
Bishop said Greenville County extradites about 70 to 80 suspects a year.
In Pickens County, the no-extradition charges involve aggravated assault and robbery offenses. One case involved robbery of a financial institution, while two involved robbery of a business. One case was a forcible purse snatching, according to records from the database.
Creed Hashe, chief deputy for the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, said there are many reasons for not seeking extradition. He said he wasn’t sure what happened in the cases referred to in the USA TODAY database without the name and identity of each case.
“It depends on the nature of the offense, it depends on the age of the warrant, it depends on the prosecutable viability of the case versus when it was signed,” he said. “All of those factors are considered on whether we go pick somebody up or not.”
He said it also depends on what the person is being charged with in the other jurisdiction.
“If they are being charged with a capital offense and ours is a somewhat lower offense, certainly we are going to let them run through the system first and see. If the person gets life without parole in their jurisdiction, we’re probably going to have our warrant recalled.”
He said each case is evaluated on its own. Sometimes mistakes are made in the other jurisdiction as to who they have arrested or the type of warrant, Hashe said, so the department first has to confirm the identity, the charge and if prosecution is still viable.
He said many years ago, many cases went without extradition because it was so cost prohibitive. Now, he said, both Pickens and Greenville counties operate their own aircraft that they can use to go pick up suspects in other states.
“We go, I would say on average, probably three or four trips a month, flying to various locations and pick up people who had warrants on them,” he said.