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EXCLUSIVE: Senate president to vote against judge

The Judicial Merit Selection Commission interviewed candidates Tuesday for opens seats on the S.C. Supreme Court, S.C. Court of Appeals and various circuit court benches.  Judge Kenneth G. Goode, of Winnsboro, answers interview questions for the commission.
The Judicial Merit Selection Commission interviewed candidates Tuesday for opens seats on the S.C. Supreme Court, S.C. Court of Appeals and various circuit court benches. Judge Kenneth G. Goode, of Winnsboro, answers interview questions for the commission. The State

Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell confirmed this afternoon he will vote Wednesday against the re-election of Circuit Judge Kenneth Goode of Winnsboro, citing a pattern of “abuse of discretion.”

McConnell, R-Charleston, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and state Judicial Merit Selection Commission — which screens judges — told The State he was “very disturbed” by Goode’s handling of a Richland County child abuse case and an-other case in Richland and Lex-ington counties involving a convicted sex offender.

Goode created a firestorm of controversy in December when he gave no prison time to Talisha Lavette Smith, a former Summit neighborhood day care operator who pleaded guilty to slapping 7-month-old Kendra Gaddie so hard that it caused bleeding on her brain. The felony child abuse charge carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

McConnell said he came to his decision today after reviewing the Gaddie case and another case involving a man who pleaded guilty in 2006 and 2007 to Peeping Tom and indecent exposure charges in Lexington and Richland counties.

The man, who had prior Peeping Tom and indecent exposure convictions, was sentenced by Goode to no more than six months in prison in the latest cases, according to records. He also violated probation numerous times, though Goode as recently as Monday refused to revoke his probation, records show.

“In my mind, it’s just an abuse of discretion,” McConnell said. “When I come to the opinion there’s an abuse of discretion, that’s when I vote ‘no.’”

McConnell said he has spoken to Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, “who feels the same way” about Goode’s re-election.

Fair on Jan. 29 introduced a bill, in response to the Gaddie case, that would require mandatory prison sentences of two years for child care providers convicted of seriously harming children.

The state Legislature in a joint session at noon Wednesday is scheduled to vote on a number of judicial seats, including Goode, who is unopposed.

Incumbent judges typically are re-elected without fanfare.

Goode has been on the bench since 1999. Efforts this week to reach him have been unsuccessful.

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