A Clarendon County jury took a little more than five hours over two days to find a 26-year-old Manning man not guilty Thursday of threatening the life of two 3rd Judicial Circuit Court judges.
Keith Allen Norman Gadson, of Manning, will remain at the Clarendon County Detention Center, however, to await trial for unrelated charges of armed robbery and second-degree assault by mob. The Clarendon County Sheriff's Office arrested Gadson on Jan. 15 on all his charges after discovering a rap video uploaded to YouTube in which Gadson and Rodregiz Antwan Cole, 29, mention 3rd Circuit Drug Court Judge Amy Land and Circuit Court Judge R. Ferrell Cothran in what deputies thought to be a threatening manner.
Unrelated to the video, Gadson received charges for his suspected role in the ambush and beating with metal knuckles of a man in the parking lot of a Manning restaurant, according to Clarendon County Sheriff Randy Garrett. Twelfth Circuit Court Judge Michael G. Nettles ordered Gadson to receive a $50,000 surety bond if those charges remained outstanding after his trial for the alleged video threats, but 1st Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein revoked that order on Thursday citing safety concerns.
Clarendon Assistant Public Defender King Cutter said he is pleased with his client's acquittal and that he will continue to work for a "reasonable bond" for Gadson.
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"Mr. Gadson maintained he was innocent from the moment I began representing him in February," Cutter said. "The way the law was charged to the jury this week, his verdict for the threats could have gone either way, so I'm glad he got his day in court."
Nettles sentenced Cole to seven years in prison, suspended to four years in prison and two years' probation after his trial in July. He was found guilty of one count of intimidation of a public official. Cole was also found not guilty of an additional charge of threatening the life of a public official.
Land said despite those not guilty verdicts, she considers the video a real threat.
"I still am very wary about his intentions and why he participated in that video," she said. "I believe in our justice system, and I accept their verdict. But I really do think that Keith Gadson had bad intentions when he made that video."
Both the men's attorneys argued that the men were using the names of the only two judges they've known as a metaphor for a Taurus handgun, which is colloquially known as "The Judge." Cole and Gadson appeared before Cothran on various drug charges, and Cole was one of the final defendants brought to Clarendon general sessions court by Land when she was a Clarendon County assistant solicitor.
"In an effort to be clever, (Cole) found himself incarcerated," Manning attorney Shaun Kent said. "Mr. Cole's lyrics in no way were intended in the negative light in which they were cast."
Kent said Gadson's verdict makes his appeal for Cole "interesting." However, Cole may have hindered his own chances by testifying this week for Gadson against Kent's legal advice.
"I think he seriously hamstrung his own appeal with his testimony," Kent said.
Cutter was unsure when Gadson's remaining charges will be adjudicated. Efforts to reach 3rd Circuit Assistant Solicitor Chris DuRant were unsuccessful Wednesday and Thursday.