Berkeley County, South Carolina Sheriff Wayne DeWitt is accused of driving more than 100 mph, speeding through a red light and nearly losing control of his county-issued pickup truck following a hit-and-run accident, according to The Independent Mail.
He has declined to step down from his office at this time.
The S.C. Highway Patrol released information on DeWitt’s arrest earlier today, one week after he was charged with drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident involving an injury. First elected in 1994, DeWitt was sworn into office for his sixth term during a private ceremony Sunday, after running unopposed as a Republican and after initially missing his scheduled, public swearing-in ceremony.
A crash report says DeWitt’s Ford F-150 rear-ended a car around 5:30 a.m. Dec. 28, and fled the scene, causing about $7,000 worth of damage to the car and injuring a 21-year-old man. A Hanahan police officer reported he was on his way to work when DeWitt’s truck swerved around his cruiser and sped away at more than 100 mph, nearly losing control several times and attempting to flee the cruiser. (When DeWitt did stop, he forgot to shift into park before he got out. The truck began to roll and two officers had to jump inside to stop it.)
Police reports indicate that DeWitt had “droopy, bloodshot and glassy” eyes and lost his balance during field sobriety tests. He admitted to “having a drink around 4 a.m.” and told the trooper he hit the car because it “stopped in front of him.”
The report says there was an open container of alcohol in DeWitt’s truck, as well as an unopened, 1.75-liter bottle of vodka.
DeWitt is officially the ninth sheriff in South Carolina to be charged (or investigated and later charged) while in office since 2010. Of that number, six have pleaded guilty or been convicted, and another died while under investigation.Only two of those sheriffs have been sentenced to prison, according to Savannah Now. On December 30, former Lexington County Sheriff James Mett took a guilty plea in a bribery case that gave him a stiff fine and three years of probation instead.
This may be DeWitt’s first criminal case where he is named as defendant, but he’s no stranger to the courts. In 2011, he and his sheriff’s office were sued by the Department of Justice for civil rights violations for refusing to allow non-Christian religious materials to prisoners of other faith. Prisoners claimed that they were allowed basic text such as the Koran, but refused supplemental study materials, while Christians could access pretty much any reading materials they wanted. There have also been several wrongful death suits against the office while he has been in power.