S.C. Treasurer Ravenel resigns

COLUMBIA - S.C. Treasurer Thomas Ravenel resigned from office today, about one month after he was indicted on a federal cocaine charge.

Ravenel, 44, appeared in court for the first time to face a charge of possession with intent to distribute less than 500 grams of cocaine. His attorneys entered a not guilty plea earlier this month.

Prosecutors have said he shared cocaine with his friends and did not sell the drug.

"I'm deeply disappointed in myself,'' Ravenel said outside the courthouse. He apologized to the state and to his family.

He said he already told Gov. Mark Sanford about the resignation, which was effective Tuesday.

In court, Ravenel - who returned to the state Sunday from a treatment program in Arizona - answered routine questions from U.S. Magistrate Joseph McCrorey. The judge said the 44-year-old millionaire developer can attend another treatment program in Sante Fe, N.M.

McCrorey ordered Ravenel to meet with federal probation officers Wednesday. His next court appearance was scheduled for Aug. 21.

Before walking into the courtroom, Ravenel chatted with family members and his attorney, smiling and laughing.

Ravenel remains free on a $100,000 unsecured bond.

He was suspended from office by Sanford immediately after his indictment was announced June 19. Three days later, he entered the Sierra Tucson Center, a psychiatric hospital in Catalina, Ariz., that specializes in addiction and behavioral disorder treatment.

If convicted, he would face up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Ravenel, considered a rising political star, also has stepped down as state campaign chairman for Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.

The son of Arthur Ravenel, a former congressman and state senator, the younger Ravenel started his political career in 2004 by funding his own campaign for U.S. Senate. He lost in the Republican primary.

Ravenel won the treasurer's office in November, easily beating a longtime Democrat incumbent.

Columbia attorney Ken Wingate was appointed interim state treasurer by Sanford.