Issac J. Bailey | Voters and politicians enabled Viers

02/14/2013 10:27 AM

02/14/2013 5:53 PM

In 2007, fellow S.C. lawmakers didn’t do Thad Viers any favors when they ignored his crimes.

Voters in his district did him an even greater disservice when they sent him back to the General Assembly.

The national Republicans who had named him an up-and-coming GOP political star despite his obvious problems hurt him even more.

Now, the man who was maybe the most high-profile member of the Horry County delegation and had a good chance to be the first person to hold the 7th Congressional seat faces the real possibility of prison.

His troubles did not begin with the latest charges that were made public last week.

They began when he and a few “friends” harassed and threatened his then-estranged wife and her new partner.

Viers received a $500 fine for threatening to sexually assault the man and his mother, which convinced the man to start sleeping with a shotgun.

That’s the extremely censored, PG version of what Viers did, which doesn’t include the four-letter words and racial slurs he used and the initial lying he did.

His lawyer, who was also a member of the General Assembly, told the court Viers acted that way because he was “under the influence of love.”

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said the political body – the one that sets standards and laws for the entire state – had no reason to censure him, even though Viers had committed domestic violence, which was and remains South Carolina’s primary criminal problem.

Some of his top supporters got in touch with me after I pointed that out. They said any man would react that way during an ugly, stressful parting of ways with someone to whom he had pledged his life.

They were all but congratulating him for his actions. Some of them told me men had every right to do what Viers did.

And we wonder why there’s a domestic violence problem in South Carolina.

Six years later, after another incident with another woman, Viers is no longer a rising star.

Instead, he made the front page and led the local news because he was handcuffed while being escorted into court.

This time it involves a former girlfriend, not an estranged wife.

This time it is alleged harassment, stalking, public intimidation and a first-degree burglary charge that carries a minimum mandatory 15-year sentence.

This time, the situation doesn’t carry the option of a $500 fine and being enabled by voters and colleagues.

No matter how this case turns out – whether he is found guilty or not guilty or signs a plea agreement – what was clear in 2007 remains so.

Viers has a problem.

His actions then were not those of a rational man.

Those who said they loved and supported him denied that truth six years ago.

Ignoring it again will hurt him just as much as it did the last time, and maybe more.

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