Monday, October 24, 2016

Michael Slager’s attorneys argue investigators intentionally deceived former officer

Defense alleges failures of North Charleston Police Department

Posted by Dustin Waters on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 9:11 AM

  • Dustin Waters
Attorneys for Michael Slager laid out a compelling narrative in court Friday, portraying their client as an officer left on his own to patrol one of North Charleston’s most dangerous neighborhoods before being misled by investigators looking into the events surrounding the death of Walter Scott.

Several of Slager’s former fellow officers along with North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers testified Friday, sharing their versions of what happened on April 4, 2015 — the day Slager fatally shot Scott following a traffic stop for a broken third brake light. Police rushed to the scene off of Craig Street where Slager had chased Scott. Once there, officers and investigators were tasked with securing the area and determining how a traffic stop had escalated into an officer-involved shooting. On that day, Slager is said to have shared his own account of what transpired. After chasing Scott into an empty trailer park, Slager fired his Taser at Scott, which proved to be ineffective.

Reloading his Taser, Slager fired again, this time dropping Scott to the ground. From this point, Slager says a struggle ensued. The officer pressed his Taser into Scott’s side in another effort to subdue the suspect, but Scott was allegedly able to wrestle the Taser away. The former officer whose trial begins Oct. 31 claims that as the two men returned to their feet, Scott pointed the Taser at him. Slager then says he then stepped aside, pulled his pistol, and opened fire as Scott turned away.

Attorney Andy Savage told the court Friday that there is new evidence consistent with Slager being tased following testing and comparisons with marks left on the former officers shirt he was wearing during the struggle.

Savage claimed that had Slager had sufficient back-up that day, the outcome of that traffic stop would have been much different. Questioning Driggers — who had known Slager during his time as a chaplain prior to becoming chief of police — Savage discussed the whereabouts of the other officers who were scheduled to be patrolling the central area of North Charleston along with Slager that day. Savage argues that the officers who would have been able to respond as back-up in a timely fashion were dispatched to serve warrants, retrieve items reported lost, or simply not on duty when Slager called for assistance. According to Savage, Driggers would implement minimal manpower standards for the North Charleston police the following year, but it was a failure on the part of the department on the morning that Scott was shot that caused Slager to use deadly force.

Standing in opposition of Slager’s account of the shooting, prosecutors say that the eyewitness video demonstrates a very different chain of events — one that shows Scott running away from Slager as the officer opened fire. In the days following Scott’s shooting, agents with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division scheduled a meeting with Slager and his attorney at the time to discuss what had transpired. On the eve of that meeting, agents became aware of the video, but chose to not immediately share the evidence with Slager and his attorney. Investigators with the case said they wanted to hear Slager’s account of the shooting before mentioning the existence of the video, fearing that Slager would become uncooperative or attempt to change his story. The former officer now faces felony charges for misleading investigators.

Just days after Scott was killed, SLED agents sat down with Slager and his attorney to discuss the events that led to Scott’s death. After an initial interview, investigators showed the video to Slager and his former attorney. They reviewed the evidence multiple times before leaving the room. While SLED agents awaited their return, they received the call to arrest Slager for murder. Savage argues that investigators willfully lied to Slager and his former attorney in what he described as an intentional, pre-planned deception.

Circuit Judge Clifton Newman decided that this evasiveness on the part of investigators was not in violation of Slager’s constitutional rights, saying he can think of no requirement for police to disclose incriminating evidence to someone under investigation. The eyewitness video will remain a key piece of evidence during Slager’s state trial, which is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Oct. 31 in downtown Charleston.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

The Agenda: DHEC blames unnamed staffer in abortion law snafu; Haley calls Trump language "irresponsible"

Summey insists he supports I-526

Posted by Sam Spence on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 12:03 PM

Haley addresses the media during October's storms - GOVERNOR'S OFFICE
  • Governor's Office
  • Haley addresses the media during October's storms

A judge hears a change of venue request from defense attorneys for Michael Slager today. Jury selection is scheduled to start on Oct. 31. Source: AP

Answering Donald Trump's refusal to say he'll accept results of the presidential election and that the contest will be rigged, Gov. Nikki Haley said yesterday, "This election is not rigged, and it's irresponsible to say that it is." Source: P&C

DHEC is blaming an unnamed staffer for language that got into proposals for state abortion law changes, specifically saying that lawmakers did not add the proposals that would have required some women to get their husbands' permission and take an STD test before legally having an abortion. Source: P&C

But the P&C's Brian Hicks isn't buying it: "Who knew the South Carolina Legislature had so much medical expertise?"

Planners of the massive Lorelei mixed-use real estate development will unveil their designs for the high-end site at the eastern end of Romney Street that could one day include about 4,000 homes and space for businesses. Source: P&C

North Charleston officials are generally in favor of a plan to redevelop a former shopping mall site to include a new grocery store on lower Rivers Avenue, but they want more info. Source: P&C

In Abbeville, S.C., where one of the first secession proposals was signed and where Jefferson Davis plotted the final days of the Civil War, the local town council has approved a memorial marking the site of the brutal 1916 lynching of a black man. Source: AP

In an op-ed published by the P&C, Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey says "I am 100 percent for the 526 extension and always will be" despite secretly recorded meetings that appear to capture him 'playing both sides.'

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Agenda: Gowdy in leaked Clinton camp emails; Townville shooting info reportedly withheld

Posted by Sam Spence on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 12:05 PM

  • File photo

The former secretary at Emanuel AME is suing the church after she was fired shortly after the 2015 shooting when she spoke up about the church's handling of donations that were pouring in. Source: P&C, WBTW

Construction has begun on Blackbaud's new Daniel Island headquarters. Source: Daniel Island News

Upstate Congressman Trey Gowdy was a topic of conversation in the days before the Benghazi hearing. Source: The State

Video and other records in the Townville Elementary shooting is reportedly not being released. Source: Anderson Independent-Mail

Sorry, North Charleston. You're not getting a new Catawba bingo hall. (Yet.) Source: P&C

If you're thinking about writing in your vote in the general election next month, think again. Source: The State

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

DHEC to amend proposed abortion clinic regulations included in error

Agency apologizes for any confusion

Posted by Dustin Waters on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 4:48 PM

  • DHEC
A draft of proposed changes in regulations for licensed abortion clinics in South Carolina would have required some women seeking abortions to obtain consent from their husbands and require them to undergo additional testing for sexually transmitted diseases. But according to a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control, errors were found in the language of the drafted revisions, which the agency plans to update following comments received during the current public comment period.

A proposed change to require a husband’s consent for women receiving an abortion was included in error, as was language regarding testing for sexually transmitted diseases, which were meant to be carried forward as recommendations, not requirements, according to Jennifer Read, chief communications officer with DHEC.

“The proposed changes to the regulation were meant only to better conform to the recommendations by the S.C. House Legislative Audit Council and the S.C. House Legislative Oversight Committee, as well as to conform to recent statutory changes that were passed during the last legislative session,” wrote Read. “We apologize for any confusion or concern these errors may have caused and are correcting the language in the current draft, which will be reviewed again by stakeholders tomorrow.”

In the current draft of the first major update to regulations for clinics since 1996, DHEC requires abortion clinics to maintain at least one obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) board-certified physician on staff who has admitting privileges at a local hospital with OB/GYN services or have a signed agreement with an OB/GYN board-certified physician to ensure his or her availability during all operating hours. According to DHEC’s proposal, any new regulations would require a legislative review.

Vicki Ringer, South Carolina director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, argues that requiring physicians who perform abortions to be board-certified OB/GYNS simply reduces the number of physicians available for clinics and that other trained physicians, such as doctors of internal medicine, are capable of providing care for those seeking abortions.

According to Elizabeth Nash with the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that examines reproductive health issues and legislation, this requirement poses a problem for many clinics. As senior state issues associate with the institute, Nash says there are some states that require either the abortion provider have admitting privileges or requires the provider to have an agreement with a physician who does, but this regulation applies to OB/GYNs.

Nash calls the regulation another attempt to use admitting privileges to close clinic doors, writing, “In a sense, this requirement could be more burdensome because the provider with the admitting privileges must be an OB/GYN and there are fewer of them."

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Folly bans plastic bags from the beach

Bag ban hits the sand

Posted by Dustin Waters on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 10:38 AM

Folly Beach City Council has taken a strong stand on reducing litter - FLICKR USER VELKR0
  • Flickr user velkr0
  • Folly Beach City Council has taken a strong stand on reducing litter
Folly Beach City Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to prohibit the use of single-use plastic bags, balloons, and all polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) plates, cups, and containers on the beach. Those found violating that ban could face a fine up to $500 or 30 days in jail.

Effective immediately, the new ordinance comes just one month after Folly Beach officials passed new rules that will prevent businesses from distributing single-use plastic bags to customers. With plastic bags soon to be no longer an option, stores are asked to provide or make available to customers reusable carry-out bags or recyclable paper bags.

The ordinance also prohibits businesses from selling or providing customers with polystyrene foam coolers or cups. Taking effect at the start of next year, businesses found in violation of the ban would face a $100 fine on first offense, $200 for the second, and $500 for each additional violation during a 12-month period. Repeat offenders could also have their business licenses suspended or revoked by the city.

Folly Beach efforts follow the Isle of Palms ban, which in 2015 became the first municipality in South Carolina to put in place a ban on single-use plastic bags. The Isle of Palms’ ban also passed by a unanimous vote from City Council, and the ordinance officially went into effect at the start of this year.

Hoping to gather information on how residents throughout the city of Charleston feel about single-use plastic bags, a coalition of city, county, and private environmental groups released a survey this summer. Although the survey’s introduction states that residents should not assume any foregone conclusions regarding future bans on plastics in the city, it is also written that the survey’s purpose is to “gauge support, concern, and information gaps regarding possible ways to reduce plastic bags in our communities.”

The introduction later adds, “We are interested in exploring ways to minimize the use of plastic — specifically, single-use plastic bags — to benefit the health and natural beauty of our community.”

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