Chesterfield County sheriff accused of overstepping his legal duties. When elected to sheriff in 2002, Sanford Parker promised to help the people in rural Chesterfield County, S.C.
During his time as sheriff, Parker purchased a surplus military helicopter. With a pilot at the controls, the sheriff made many flights often peering out the window searching for suspects. He acquired guns and much-needed equipment for his rural department. The sheriff equipped and trained one of the best SWAT teams in South Carolina and had a notable police K-9 unit. Parker recruited local residents to assist deputies in monitoring events such as high school football games. The sheriff also assisted county inmates who earned his trust. One inmate was flown home to visit an ailing mother.
Chesterfield County is located 70 miles from Columbia, S.C. Making it isolated an area of the state. With resources at a premium, Parker shared his assets with neighboring counties. If a nearby Marlboro County deputy needed assistance with a case that crossed into Chesterfield County, Sheriff Parker obliged. If the assistance required the use of the helicopter or the SWAT team that was no problem according to Marlboro County Sheriff Lieutenant Jamie Scales.
Sheriff Fred Knight of Marlboro County who has known Parker for years has never known him to smoke or drink and has always considered him an honest church going man. Parker has had a close attachment to protecting the 47,000 people of Chesterfield County.
On Monday, prosecutors will argue in court that Parker is guilty of five counts for misconduct in office, two counts of issuing contraband to inmates, and one count of embezzlement. The charges of misconduct and contraband each have maximum sentences of 10 years of imprisonment. The embezzlement charge carries up to five years of incarceration. The 40 year officer is accused of issuing friends confiscated weapons that included an M-14 semi-automatic rifle without filling out the proper paperwork. Civilians recruited to assist in large-scale events such as high school football games wore police uniforms and carried badges when they were not part of the department.
The investigation began when the inmate Parker had helped to see his sick mother became disgruntled after Parker punished him for a violation. Serving a 15 year sentence for arson, the prisoner was sent to Chesterfield County and given tasks such as maintaining county property and fixing cars. He informed investigators that for his services he was permitted to sleep outside of the jail, drink alcohol, have personal jail visits with women, and the use of an iPad.
Parker is one of seven South Carolina sheriffs facing charges or criminal investigations over the past four years. Johnny Gasser, Parker’s lawyer, alleged that his client’s arrest in March 2013 was meant to single him out. Instead of pleading guilty in order to avoid jail time, Parker chose to have his day in court. Gasser says the Chesterfield County sheriff accused of overstepping his legal duties wants to present his side of the story to a jury and have his day in court.
When Governor Nikki Haley threatened to suspend him on the charges brought against him, Parker volunteered to step aside. Now he wants his job back and if found not guilty, he will ask the governor to reinstate him. Last month Parker paid $2,700 to file as the only Republican seeking a four-year term for sheriff. He faces four Democrats for the position. Sanford Parker, the Chesterfield County sheriff accused of overstepping his legal duties, will have his day in court on Monday.
By Brian T. Yates
The Cheraw Chronicle