Crime & Courts

Former narcotics officers won't face charges

AIKEN -- Four narcotics officers will not be charged with any crime for the actions that got them fired from the Aiken County Sheriff's Office in 2007.

However, their former boss, Sheriff Michael Hunt, is upset that he was not kept in the loop about the decision.

James Crowell, 34, Lt. Jonathon Owenby, 31, Tim Roberts, 30, and Luke Williamson, 35 were fired from their positions in October 2007 after they were alleged to have spent a night going to bars in the Augusta and North Augusta area in a County vehicle. At least one illicit sex act in an unmarked County vehicle was alleged in a news release issued by the Sheriff's Office at the time.

In her last hours as the solicitor for Aiken, Bamberg and Barnwell counties, Barbara Morgan announced Wednesday that the four men's actions did not rise to a level that warranted criminal prosecution.

"(The office is) not pursuing any criminal charges against them. This is not the right source of prosecutorial resources," she said. "(These incidents) are not violent or violations of civil rights."

Morgan said the only charge that could have been brought would have been misconduct, but that would only apply to the supervisor.

"They have paid the ultimate price for their actions -- they will never be in law enforcement again. They have been appropriately dishonored," she said.

Hunt reacted to the news Wednesday, not upset that charges had not been brought, but that his office was not informed on the details of the investigation.

Hunt said he had no prior knowledge of Morgan's decision and only learned about it late Wednesday afternoon.

"The residents of Aiken County knew before I did. I found out about it after an employee told me it was on the 11 p.m. news, " he said Wednesday afternoon. "She has yet to call."

After the deputies were terminated, the case was handed over to the State Law Enforcement Division and the solicitor's office.

Morgan, who handed over the Solicitor's office to Strom Thurmond Jr. this week, said that not informing Hunt was an oversight.

She said her office was closing the case as a courtesy to Thurmond, who may have had a conflict of interest if his office had to handle it.

"I'm sorry I missed him," she said regarding Hunt.

Morgan stated she had been very busy with an ill relative and that she thought SLED had been communicating with Hunt.

-- Aiken Standard, McClatchy-Tribune Regional News