February 7, 2013

Judge sets Thad Viers’ bond at $25,000 on burglary charge

Prosecutors said Thursday that former Myrtle Beach area representative Thad Viers was linked to a break-in at his ex-girlfriend’s home through details that had not been released publicly but turned up in comments on a website.

Prosecutors said Thursday that former Myrtle Beach area representative Thad Viers was linked to a break-in at his ex-girlfriend’s home through details that had not been released publicly but turned up in comments on a website.

Authorities used IP addresses and cellphone records to link him to the incident, according to Fourth Judicial Circuit Assistant Solicitor Kernard Redmond, who is prosecuting Viers to prevent a conflict of interest in the 15th Judicial Circuit.

Redmond released the details during a hearing Thursday where Circuit Court Judge Edward Cunningham set bail for Viers at $25,000.

Viers is charged with first degree burglary and petit larceny stemming from March 20, 2012 when police say he broke into his ex-girlfriends home off Brewster Drive.

His attorney, Dylan Goff, requested a personal recognizance bond saying Viers is not a threat to the community and is not a flight risk.

“Under no circumstances would I grant a personal recognizance on a first degree burglary,” Cottingham said. “I would agree with you based on his history and length of time that he would not necessarily pose a flight risk but you need to understand that this charge is burglary first degree.”

The charge, he said, carries a minimum mandatory 15 years imprisonment if convicted.

Redmond took about 20 minutes in court to detail the state’s case, explaining that photographs of the woman with another man that were taken after the breakup with Viers were moved in her home. The photographs had been broken out of the frame and laid on a table. The charges all stem back to 2011 when Viers and the woman separated.

She told police she repeatedly asked Viers to stop contacting her after the break up, saying she was reluctant to press charges because she didn’t want to hurt his political career. Ultimately, she presented police with a three-ring binder detailing the calls, emails and texts.

That information led to Viers arrest in January 2012 in Myrtle Beach, when he was accused of stalking and harassing his ex-girlfriend. He was indicted on those charges in March, two days after the burglary that was alleged in court Thursday.

“The day before his resignation [from the state legislature], we contend based on the evidence that we’ve compiled, that the defendant broke into the apartment of the victim,” Redmond said. “At that time we did not have enough to make any arrests. The only thing we knew was her apartment had been broken into and these items had been taken.”

The prosecutor said Viers is suspected of posting comments containing information about photographs in the woman’s home that hadn’t been released to the public on FITSNews.com that linked him to the burglary.

“In the comments it’s basically railing off against her for what we allege he saw when he broke into her apartment,” he said.

The state executed “several search warrants” to learn the IP addresses where the comments were made and who the addresses were registered to. One was the Clarion Hotel in Columbia, where Viers was staying at the time some comments were made and the other was his Myrtle Beach home.

Viers was near his ex-girlfriend’s home at the time of the burglary according to cellphone records, Redmond said.

Obtaining and executing the search warrants took time, Redmond said, explaining why it took nearly a year to indict Viers for the burglary. Redmond also talked about posts on FITSNews.com that followed the Jan. 31 indictment that include text messages between Viers and the ex-girlfriend that are considered evidence in the case. He said he believes whoever leaked the information is attempting to harass and intimidate the woman.

“I don’t know if the intent is to harass or intimidate her into backing down from this case, but I can assure you as I stand her it is having the exact opposite effect,” he said. “Her resolve is strong.”

Redmond said seized computers and cellphones are being examined by the State Law Enforcement Division in an attempt to learn how the messages were released.

Cottingham said he was “deeply concerned” about those posts. He asked Viers to stand and gave a stern warning about continued harassment.

“There is some indication based on pretrial that you or somebody on your behalf have used discovery material and provided FITSNews with it,” he said. “Without question somebody is trying to besmirch the reputation of that unfortunate victim.

“You listen to me very carefully. If I find that this conduct continues I’m going to blame it on you and I’m going to revoke your bond immediately. If third parties continue to besmirch this victim’s reputation I’m going to issue a rule to show cause and bring that individual and put him or her in jail. I will not permit any further contact like this with FITSNews or anybody else. That victim is entitled to her peace.”

The ex-girlfriend did not appear in court Thursday.

Request to dismiss harassment charge

On Dec. 19, 2012, Goff filed a motion to dismiss the harassment charges for failure to comply, according to court documents. Goff said the solicitor’s response to the discovery requests were “materially incomplete,” and did not include evidence within the required 30 day window.

Among the items not included were an audio recording of the woman’s statement that triggered Viers’ arrest, portions of an email from the woman to Myrtle Beach police, receipts for repair or other evidence substantiating allegations of damage to her vehicle that supports the stalking charge, and proof of delivery of certified letters from the woman to Viers.

Goff said the audio recording was provided sixth months late after repeated requests and as of the December filing, the other items had not been received.

According to the documents, text message transcripts between Viers and the woman had been redacted and the stricken information would show Viers is not guilty.

“The non redacted texts show at best the retribution of a scorned lover or at worst a coldly calculated plan to politically and financially ruin an innocent man,” Goff said.

The motion asserts the woman sought Viers arrest at the “repeated urging of her new love interest,” who had donated money to Andre Bauer’s campaign.

Bauer and Viers were opponents in the race for the 7th Congressional District seat. Viers’ abandoned his bid for the spot following the arrest.

Additionally, the documents say the text messages show the woman initiated contact with Viers “well after she claims to have ordered Mr. Viers to stop contacting her.”

Goff said Viers remains on administrative suspension through the S.C. Bar Association pending resolution of the charges. He said that suspension is not a reflection of his innocence or guilt and is merely a formality.

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