Crime & Courts

Drug trafficking new target of Richland sheriff, with federal help

Is your meth infected with the Zika virus? That’s not possible, a police official says after a publicity stunt gained mixed reviews. The bags of meth shown here were seized in a federal investigation in Gulfport.
Is your meth infected with the Zika virus? That’s not possible, a police official says after a publicity stunt gained mixed reviews. The bags of meth shown here were seized in a federal investigation in Gulfport. Drug Enforcement Administration

Richland County will soon have a new prosecutor targeting high-intensity drug trafficking cases.

On Tuesday, Richland County Council voted to accept a federal grant to hire the new prosecutor, in a position that blurs the line between federal and local efforts to combat drugs in South Carolina.

The temporary position will add an employee to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, but the new attorney will serve as a special assistant U.S. attorney in the federal prosecutor’s Columbia office.

The position will be South Carolina’s first joint federal/local prosecutor hired under a federal high-intensity drug trafficking initiative.

“One thing we haven’t had that Atlanta has had is a dedicated prosecutor,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, who chairs a task force of local law enforcement in South Carolina focused on drug trafficking issues. “And the easiest way to get one is for it to pass through Richland County.”

Lott emphasized the position will be fully funded by the federal grant, and won’t be an extra cost to Richland County. The position will be temporary, filled for the year covered by the grant.

The new position will work collaboratively between the U.S. attorney’s office and state and local law enforcement to prosecute both local and federal drug cases. Despite being a Richland County employee, the new prosecutor will work cases across South Carolina.

With county approval, the position is expected to be filled in the coming weeks, Lott said.

The U.S. attorney’s office pointed to the impact the opioid crisis has had on South Carolina, as well as continuing use of cocaine and methamphetamines in some parts of the state.

South Carolina’s current U.S. attorney, Sherri Lydon, has been nominated by President Donald Trump for a seat as a federal judge.

Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.
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