Solicitor says any investigation of Horry County police goes to AG

Solicitor Jimmy Richardson has recused himself from investigating and prosecuting any findings of criminal wrongdoing by Horry County Police Officers, citing a potential conflict of interest with his office.

Richardson said Thursday that if the ongoing investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) of police officers reveals criminal misconduct, he will forward those findings straight to the state attorney general for action.

“There should not even be an appearance of impropriety,” said Richardson, whose office handles hundreds of cases in which Horry County Police officers are called as witnesses.

“The attorney general will review anything that has to do with these officers and then they will make the call,” Richardson said. “There’s either enough to prosecute or not enough to prosecute, and in that case, they will be the ones rejecting the SLED report.”

SLED spokesman Thom Berry has confirmed that individuals within the Horry County Police Department have been under investigation since November, and in December a lawsuit was filed against the agency accusing an unnamed detective of sexually assaulting a rape victim.

There should not even be an appearance of impropriety.

Jimmy Richardson, 15

Horry County and police officials have declined to comment on the investigation and lawsuit. Saundra Rhodes took early retirement as police chief, ending her career May 6, followed by Deputy Chief Scott Rutherford whose retirement was announced Wednesday.

By recusing himself, Richardson said it reduces the risk of future conflicts of interest within the office, and he cannot be accused of showing favoritism if any SLED investigation findings are not strong enough for prosecution.

“That way, no one can say any deals were made,” Richardson said.

Berry could not be reached for comment Thursday, but said in a previous interview that investigative findings by the state agency are typically sent first to the county solicitor. It is up to the solicitor as to whether the case should be pursued by the attorney general, and up to the attorney general as to whether a grand jury should be empaneled.

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson