June 17: Federal authorities hand down a 10-count indictment alleging then-Lexington County Sheriff James Metts accepted bribes from friends in return for using his “position, power and influence as sheriff” to interfere with the proper identification and processing of some illegal immigrants detained at the county jail. Four illegal immigrants were freed in 2011 rather than being turned over to federal officials for possible deportation, the indictment says. Metts faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the most severe federal charge, wire fraud. He asserts his innocence.
Separately, a State Grand Jury indicts three others, two on charges related to Metts’ case: One allegedly paid the bribes; the other was the alleged bagman.
Later that day, Gov. Nikki Haley suspends Metts without pay from his $117,399-a-year job. She appoints a replacement, Lewis McCarty, to fill the position in her home county. McCarty retired years ago from the sheriff’s department as Metts’ second-in-command.
June 18: McCarty dismisses four top Metts aides. The indictment alleges Metts showed the immigrants “preferential treatment” arranged through unidentified “command staff” and officers. Sheriff’s officials will only say no one was laid off due to Metts’ suspension.
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June 20: Federal officials take a file with unspecified material related to the custody of immigrants, among other things, during a sweep of the sheriff’s headquarters, according to a search warrant. Officials also take information associated with online gaming.
July 1: Metts pleads not guilty and denies the allegations. He is freed on a $100,000 bond and leaves the courthouse without talking.
July 25: Metts attorney Sherri Lydon acknowledges that Metts knew of the investigation “for over a year.” The State newspaper reports that long before he was indicted, Metts was rebuffed by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association and some County Council members about their willingness to help pay for any legal bills.
Sept. 4: Through his attorneys, Metts asks U.S. Judge Terry Wooten for a speedy trial. Wooten sets a trial date of Jan. 20. “Justice will prevail,” Metts said as he leaves the courthouse. “We are innocent, and we have always been.”
Dec. 3: Wooten denies an effort by Metts’ lawyers to throw out two parts of the 10-count federal indictment prior to trial.
Dec. 12: Metts’ attorneys, prosecutors unexpectedly ask the judge for a hearing. Neither side will say why.
Dec. 16: Wooten compels both sides to disclose what they want to discuss in court. The hastily filed documents reveal a proposed plea agreement that would give Metts three years’ probation, no prison time. Separately, Metts notifies the governor’s office he is retiring, effective immediately.
Dec. 17: Wooten rejects the proposed plea agreement during the hearing. He says Metts is a public official and that the charges come with recommended prison time under sentencing guidelines.