Well-known Lexington County attorney Henry Taylor has been publicly reprimanded by the S.C. Supreme Court for paying a police chief a referral fee for sending him a car crash death case that resulted in an apparent huge settlement.
The police chief was not named in the Supreme Court reprimand.
But multiple sources identified the chief as South Congaree ex-police chief Jason Amodio, who pleaded guilty in federal court two years ago to lying to a federal grand jury about a secret payment he had gotten from a lawyer in a traffic case.
At Amodio’s sentencing hearing in July 2015, assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson told U.S. Judge Joe Anderson that Amodio lied to a federal grand jury about his acceptance of a questionable $9,000 payment from an unnamed Lexington County lawyer. The payment, Richardson said, was for referring a client to the lawyer following a 2011 crash in which one family member died and another was killed.
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Anderson ordered files in the case to be turned over to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. That office investigates lawyers’ conduct for the Supreme Court. This week’s reprimand to Taylor was the result of that office’s investigation.
In its reprimand to Taylor, a unanimous Supreme Court found that Taylor broke two legal ethical rules: one forbidding lawyers to share legal fees with non-lawyers and another prohibiting engaging in conduct “prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
Taylor declined to comment for the article, his attorney said.
The Supreme Court justices could have kept Taylor’s reprimand confidential but chose to make it public.
Details on the crash death, including the name of the victim, were not included in the Supreme Court’s opinion.
However, a 2011 crash in South Congaree, where Amodio was chief, resulted in the death of 4-year-old Garbriella Shumate and serious injuries to her father, Devin Shumate. A drunken driver, later convicted of felony DUI, crossed a center line and smashed into the Shumate’s vehicle head-on.
Evidence in that case revealed the driver, Caitlin Braun, had been drinking all day at an event sponsored by the Indian River Golf Club. She served 18 months in prison for felony DUI.
Court documents filed in Lexington County Probate Court reveal that Devin and Dacia Shumate, Gabriella’s parents, filed a wrongful death action in Fairfield County against Braun, Indian River Golf Course, the Ben Arnold Sunbelt Beverage Co., and State Street Pub. Henry Taylor’s law firm represented the Shumates, records say.
The settlement amount was censored in court records “to protect the confidentiality of the amount,” according to probate records. It rare for court-approved settlements in wrongful death actions involving a child’s death to be kept secret.