When the Heather Elvis kidnapping case finally went to trial last summer a key witness was missing — the major crimes detective originally assigned to the case in 2013 — Allen Large.
Large was fired from the Horry County Police Department in July 2015, after an internal investigation revealed the long-time detective had sexually harassed a member of the public, according to his employment dismissal letter.
As a result, Large has been persona non grata as a witness for the prosecution at every criminal trial in which he played a role as an investigator, according to 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson.
“Every case is different, but certainly if you’ve got a case where he is a crucial witness, you’ve either got to put him up there — and then he’s subject to cross examination — or you’ve got to find another way around it,” Richardson said.
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It’s not just the firing that prosecutors would have to explain to the jury, but other events involving Large that have since followed.
The S.C. attorney general convened a grand jury that returned nearly a dozen indictments against Large in September; six counts of misconduct in office and five counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Additionally, at least five women have filed civil lawsuits against the police department alleging that Large sexually assaulted or harassed them, and that the former officer pressured them to participate in a sub genre of pornography called “catfighting.”
The county agreed in January to settle Jane Doe 1’s civil suit for an undisclosed amount of money.
“He has not been called as a witness since he was fired,” Richardson said. “And certainly, with any case in which he would be a material witness, it is incumbent upon us to make the defense attorney aware of the allegations.”
A court gag order prohibits Richardson from commenting on the Elvis case, but he did say that Large’s termination has impacted how his office prosecuted other cases that were assigned to Large or still pending when the detective was fired.
Large was never called to testify in the case against Sidney Moorer, who is accused of kidnapping Elvis, and he won’t be called to testify in the obstruction of justice charge Moorer also faces in the investigation of her disappearance, court documents show.
Horry County officials won’t say how many cases Large had pending when he was dismissed, but police officials said during the time period of Large’s firing that they were already shorthanded when it came to detectives, about eight of whom handled more than 100,000 reports a year.
Richardson says his prosecutors were able to work around Large’s involvement in cases and instead called other police officers assigned to the same investigation to testify as witnesses or participate in the prosecution.
But in at least 10 cases, Large’s testimony was crucial, and Richardson cited one case in which the offender got off on a shorter sentence.
That was an armed robbery case that was resolved about two years ago. Richardson said that without Large’s testimony, the case did not go to trial and instead a plea bargain was reached.
“We ended up pleading the case to 10 years, which is the minimum for armed robbery, as opposed to something closer to 30 years, which is the maximum,” Richardson said.
No court dates have been set for Large’s trial on the criminal charges in the indictments, or in the civil lawsuits that are expected to proceed this year.