Crime & Courts

SC trooper chief leaves Highway Patrol after Clemson football supporter DUI flap

SC Highway Patrol

A high-ranking S.C. Highway Patrol officer under investigation for his controversial role in springing a Clemson football donor from jail after he had been arrested on DUI charges has retired.

“Capt. Stacy Craven, Troop 3 commander, has retired from the S.C. Highway Patrol,” a Department of Public Safety spokesman said Monday morning in response to a query by The State newspaper.

Craven’s retirement, effective Friday, came a little more than two weeks after 11th Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard drew up a formal opinion saying that Craven’s actions, while falling short of criminal acts, raise questions of whether the public can trust law enforcement to carry out its duties impartially.

Hubbard had been considering whether to bring obstruction of justice charges against Craven but decided against doing so because Riggins’ actions did not rise to a criminal level.

Craven’s departure from the Highway Patrol, where he served for 30 years, also came one week after The State newspaper wrote an in-depth story describing Hubbard’s opinion and quoting from a State Law Enforcement Division investigative report that raised questions about Craven’s role in getting the top Clemson football supporter out of jail.

The Department’s statement Monday did not say whether Craven’s departure was linked to the SLED investigation or Hubbard’s legal opinion on his actions.

“Retirement is a personal decision and should be addressed by Stacy Craven,” a Public Safety statement said in response to a question by The State.

Craven could not be reached for comment.

On Nov. 29, 2014, following that year’s Clemson-University of South Carolina football game at Clemson, another trooper arrested Stanley Riggins, described in the SLED report as a major Clemson donor, on DUI charges while leaving the game. That trooper took Riggins to the Pickens County jail and was about to book him in when Craven appeared and got Riggins out of jail.

According to the SLED report, Craven told investigators that he had asked a magistrate if he could get Riggins released and was told yes, but only if Riggins had not yet been booked. However, the SLED report also noted that once people are arrested on DUI, they are not supposed to be released without being booked in.

The DUI charge against Riggins was later dropped — an action approved by the 13th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

The State’s news story quoted the Department of Public Safety as saying that its internal affairs office, known as the Office of Professional Responsibility, has begun an investigation into Craven’s conduct in the Riggins incident.

On Monday, Public Safety said its internal investigation into Craven’s conduct is continuing.

As captain of Troop 3, Craven oversaw some 140 troopers in an Upstate region that covered Pickens, Anderson, Oconee, Spartanburg and Greenville counties.

Riggins, 69, is described in the SLED report as a major donor to Clemson through its athletic fundraising booster group, IPTAY. IPTAY is similar to the University of South Carolina’s athletic fundraising group, the Gamecock Club. The IPTAY website lists Stanley Riggins as a co-endower of the quarterback position of the Clemson Tigers football team.

The SLED report noted that in the hours immediately following Riggins’ arrest on Nov. 29, 2014, there was a flurry of phone calls between Craven’s supervisor, Highway Patrol trooper Maj. Michael Warren, and a top IPTAY official. There were also calls between Warren and Craven.

Craven told SLED investigators that his conduct in the matter was “stupid” and he should not have intervened in the handling of Riggins’ arrest, the report said.

Hubbard’s written opinion said that some of the answers that Craven gave to SLED investigators were “demonstrably false” and recommended that Public Safety’s internal affairs office investigate Craven for possible violations of Highway Patrol policy.

John Monk has covered courts, crime, politics, public corruption, the environment and other issues in the Carolinas for more than 40 years. A U.S. Army veteran who covered the 1989 American invasion of Panama, Monk is a former Washington correspondent for The Charlotte Observer. He has covered numerous death penalty trials, including that of the Charleston church killer, Dylann Roof, and that of child killer Tim Jones.