Crime & Courts

Former state road official Hardee faces prostitution charge day after federal sentence

Ex SC DOT official Hardee gets light sentence from tough judge

“Stupidity” was the crime: Ex SC DOT official John Hardee gets light sentence from tough judge. Hardee told a man to destroy his emails because he thought they contained evidence of a crime. But there was no crime.
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“Stupidity” was the crime: Ex SC DOT official John Hardee gets light sentence from tough judge. Hardee told a man to destroy his emails because he thought they contained evidence of a crime. But there was no crime.

A former state transportation official who pleaded guilty this week to federal evidence tampering was picked up Thursday by the Richland County Sheriff‘s Department on a prostitution charge.

John Norton Hardee, 72, was booked into the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center at 7:47 p.m. after deputies charged him with solicitation of prostitution.

Hardee was a South Carolina Department of Transportation commissioner from 1998 to 2007 and 2014 to 2018. A road is named after him — the John N. Hardee Expressway at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.

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Hardee was in court Wednesday for sentencing on a federal felony charge of deleting emails connected to an investigation. Judge Terry Wooten punished Hardee with a lenient sentence at the behest of prosecutors. Wooten gave Hardee 18 months probation, according to court filings, as well as 45 days house arrest, community service and a $1,000 fine. Near the end of the hearing, Hardee apologized to God, his family, his church, the government and his pastor. The judgment against Hardee was finalized Thursday, federal court documents show.

“I haven’t even gotten a traffic stop in 45 years,” Hardee told the judge Wednesday. “I always obey the law.”

Later Thursday, deputies arrested Hardee and booked him with the solicitation charge, according to court records. Judge Patience Orbriel Van Ellis let Hardee out of jail on a $465 bond.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department confirmed Hardee’s arrest but declined to release details, saying it’s part of an ongoing investigation.

When contacted by The State, Hardee said he had no comment.

“I don’t know anything about it and can’t comment,” Hardee’s lawyer Dick Harpootlian said.

Court records show this is Hardee’s first charge solicitation charge.

A first-time offense of soliciting prostitution is a misdemeanor punishable with 30 days in prison or a $200 fine.

Hardee likely has a bigger problem if found guilty of the solicitation charge. A guilty plea or verdict would mean Hardee violated the probation and conditions the judge set for him on Wednesday and, as punishment for a violation, Hardee could be sent to prison for the federal evidence tampering charge.

During his federal sentencing, Hardee’s attorneys offered letters from friends and prominent community leaders, saying they testify to Hardee’s good character. The current and former pastors of Columbia’s First Baptist Church wrote letters of support as did a former Columbia mayor and former and current members of Lexington County Council.

Wooten, the federal judge, said he read every letter before giving the light sentence to Hardee.

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David Travis Bland won the South Carolina Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for community journalism. As The State’s crime, police and public safety reporter, he strives to inform communities about crimes that affect them and give deeper insight into victims, the accused and law enforcement. He studied history with a focus on the American South at the University of South Carolina.
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