Ballots seized in disputed House race
Ballots and voting machines in a contested South Carolina legislative race will be guarded by state police until a hearing can be held next week on alleged voting irregularities in Richland County, a judge ordered Thursday.
The request came from the S.C. Democratic Party, which wants a recount of votes in House District 75, a seat left open by a retiring GOP lawmaker. Richland County's preliminary tally shows Republican Kirkman Finlay as the race's unofficial winner by a narrow margin – less than 300 votes. Democrat Joe McCulloch is challenging those results.
A cascade of Election Day problems delayed the county's unofficial results until late Wednesday. Officials cited multiple problems, including long lines of voters, too few voting machines and broken counting scanners. Some voters reportedly waited up to six hours.
State Democrats addressed those issues in their request for a temporary restraining order. Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning approved it and set a hearing for Nov. 13. County officials are set to begin certifying election results Friday.
House members tackle ethics reform
Republican South Carolina House members studying ways to reform state ethics laws heard from several witnesses Thursday who pressed lawmakers to achieve a common goal: fix the system.
It was the first meeting for a panel of House GOP lawmakers charged with coming up with proposed legislation for the new session, which begins in January. House Democrats have their own panel, and while the groups are meeting separately, leaders from both parties say they will collaborate.
Questions raised this year over lawmakers' actions, along with how alleged violations are reviewed, have made ethics reform a top priority for 2013.
Gov. Nikki Haley, who has created her own panel to study ethics reform, has touted a reform package that would abolish the legislative ethics panels, instead advocating that the State Ethics Commission should handle all ethics complaints against public officials – a change that would require a constitutional amendment.
Ashley Landess of the South Carolina Policy Council said reform was needed in all three branches of state government. Saying there is not enough independence in South Carolina's judiciary – which is elected by state legislators – Landess also criticized the system of having each chamber operate its own ethics committee.
Man arrested after threat to Obama
A Charleston County man is in jail after authorities say he called 911 on election night and threatened to shoot President Obama.
Charleston County sheriff's deputies say 51-year-old Kevin Daryl Salvo of Johns Island called the emergency number twice Tuesday night. A 911 dispatcher told officers that during the call, a man cursed all Democrats.
He demanded that all Democrats stay away from him and also told the dispatcher “the South will rise again.”
Deputies arrested Salvo late Tuesday night shortly after Obama was declared the winner.
Businesses warned of robbery spike
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott is urging local businesses to be vigilant, saying the county has experienced an uptick in armed robberies.
The robbers have not been selective when it comes to the types of businesses hit, according to a sheriff’s department news release. They have struck at businesses ranging from banks to nightclubs to clothing stores.
As of Oct. 31, the county has seen 91 commercial robberies, the sheriff’s department reported. That is 10 more robberies than were reported in all of 2011.
Of the 91 robberies this year, 75 have been typical stickups, in which a robber shows a weapon and demands money. The other 16 were cases of till-tapping, when the robber reaches over a counter and grabs cash from the register, according to statistics provided by the sheriff’s department.
A bulk of the robberies have been committed by the same group of people, Lott said. “We’ve got a small number of people doing a lot of robberies,” he said. “We see these guys get on a streak and they don’t stop until we catch them.”
Defense: Gen.’s accuser a scorned lover
Defense lawyers representing an Army general facing sexual misconduct charges aimed Thursday to paint his primary accuser as a liar prone to jealousy and emotional overreactions.
The female captain at the heart of the government's case against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair admits she carried on a 3-year sexual relationship with her married commander. Adultery is a crime under military law and the admission could end her career.
But she also testified earlier this week at an evidentiary hearing that she repeatedly tried to break off the affair with Sinclair, who she says threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone about their frequent sexual liaisons in hotels, headquarters and war zones.
The woman admitted she typically wanted to have sex with the general, though on two occasions in Afghanistan she says he exposed himself and physically forced her to perform oral sex, even as she sobbed.
In her closing argument, defense lawyer Maj. Elizabeth Ramsey said the accuser was a scorned lover trying to ruin the life of an outstanding warrior and patriot.