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Veteran Lexington prosecutor Myers retiring

ashain@thestate.com,

VIDEO: Donnie Myers' field sobriety test

Newly released video footage shows a S.C. Highway Patrol trooper question and arrest 11th Circuit Solicitor Donnie Myers at his Lake Murray home.
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Newly released video footage shows a S.C. Highway Patrol trooper question and arrest 11th Circuit Solicitor Donnie Myers at his Lake Murray home.

Veteran prosecutor Donnie Myers of Lexington on Wednesday announced his retirement at the end of the year.

Myers said he will not seek re-election since he would be forced to step down at the end of 2017 after he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 72.

“Common sense dictates against seeking re-election for such a short period of time,” he said in a statement.

Myers’ decision comes less than a month after his third alcohol-related charge since 2005. But he made no mention of that in his announcement.

His announcement came after a former deputy decided to to seek the 11th circuit solicitor’s seat long held by Myers.

Former Myers deputy Rich Hubbard became the first candidate to file for the race after resigning from his job in the S.C. Attorney General’s office to try to become the top prosecutor in Lexington, Edgefield, Saluda and McCormick counties.

Filing for state and local elections started Wednesday.

Meanwhile, former Grand Strand prosecutor Candice Lively announced she will run in the Republican primary race developing for the post. She is currently a staff attorney at the children’s law center at the University of South Carolina.

Hubbard and Lively join another veteran of Myers’ office, Larry Wedekind, in seeking to succeed his former boss. Wedekind told The State he left his job as a prosecutor with the State Grand Jury to run for the job. He was not as close to Myers as Hubbard.

Hubbard’s decision to leave the attorney general’s office after less than a year is having a domino effect in Lexington County politics.

His departure ended plans by Chief Deputy Attorney General John McIntosh to run for the House seat being vacated by Rep. Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington. Hubbard was going to be McIntosh’s successor at the attorney general’s office.

Now McIntosh – who has worked for solicitors, U.S. attorneys and state attorneys general – said, with Hubbard leaving, he plans to stay.

Myers’ retirement ends end a four-decade career as a prosecutor known for courtroom theatrics, a flashy wardrobe, chewing tobacco and frequently pursuing, and often winning, the death penalty for those convicted of murder.

In a past newspaper profile, Myers said he likes to drink and party.

That helped fuel controversy in the past few years.

Myers was arrested for driving under the influence in 2005 in Asheville, N.C., pleading guilty to the charge.

He then called the conviction embarrassing but said, “I felt like I did the right thing” in pleading guilty.

In 2012, he was charged with having an open container of alcohol in his car on Old Cherokee Road in Lexington County. After undergoing a sobriety test, the video ends with the trooper handing Myers a ticket and telling him he had a court date. Myers told him, “You’re a good man.”

In the most recent incident, Myers was arrested Feb. 22 for drunken driving after the S.C. Highway Patrol responded to an accident where the prosecutor’s car had run off the road and hit a utility pole. A loaded gun was left in the unlocked and abandoned car, according to a S.C. Department of Public Safety towing report.

“I can’t believe you are doing this,” Meyers said more than once during a video of his arrest at his Lake Murray home.

Myers was taken to Richland County’s jail, where he blew a 0.09 percent blood-alcohol content during a breath test. In South Carolina, 0.08 percent is evidence of intoxication while driving.

Myers has not commented publicly since the incident.

Gov. Nikki Haley, who comes from Lexington County, asked Myers to resign this month.

Anti-DUI advocates held a rally last month calling for the veteran prosecutor either to resign or get help.

“I’m very, very disappointed and embarrassed,” said Laura Hudson of Lexington, executive director of the South Carolina Crime Victims’ Council told The State newspaper last month. “It’s an embarrassment to the county. It’s obvious he has a problem he can’t deal with.”

Myers, who earns nearly $143,000 a year, is scheduled for a hearing in Lexington County on Monday.

Because the traffic accident happened in his own circuit, Myers’ case will be handled by an outside prosecutor. The S.C. Department of Public Safety’s Office of General Counsel, led by chief legal counsel Warren Ganjehsani, is taking the case.

Also, each of the nine Lexington County magistrates excused themselves from any legal proceedings against Myers. The decision means a judge from elsewhere will be assigned to preside.

Staff writer John Monk contributed.

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