Former SCGOP head accused of threatening his wife

Todd Kincannon says he was behaving erratically because of prescription medication

Todd Kincannon, a Columbia attorney and former executive director of the S.C. Republican Party, has been accused of threatening his wife and refusing to let her out of his car Thursday night, according to a report from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department. He has not been arrested or charged with any crimes, according to a sheriff’s department spokesman.

The report states that on Thursday at about 10:21 p.m., a sheriff’s deputy responded to Kincannon’s house in Columbia “regarding a possible domestic incident.” The deputy met with Kincannon, who said he and his wife had gotten in an argument about him “touching [his wife’s] leg at a work function.” The report notes that Kincannon “denied any physical altercation and had no signs of such.”

The officer then spoke with Kincannon’s wife, Ashely Suzanne Griffith, who said that they “have a history of unreported domestic violence.” She said she was “extremely fearful” of Kincannon and described him as being “extremely ‘traditional’ and controlling, thus becoming very upset due to embarrassing him,” according to the report. From the report (Note: Kincannon’s full name is listed as James John Todd Kincannon; the report refers to him as James): 

“Ashely continued to tell me after leaving the work function, James began screaming at Ashely while they drove in their car. Ashely told James to let her out of their car to which he refused. Ashely proceeded to roll down the window and scream for James to let her out, hoping a bystander would call 9-1-1.” 

She went on to tell the deputy that, while Kincannon was driving the car in a Chick-fil-A parking lot at about 5 mph, she attempted to get out of the vehicle, but “James grabbed Ashely’s arm, squeezing it tightly, thus preventing her from exiting the vehicle,” according to the report. She told the deputy that she hit Kincannon’s arm several times in an attempt to escape, but Kincannon accelerated and she was unable to get out.

From the report:

Ashley continued to tell me she called her mother for help and attempted to call 9-1-1 with an open line in order for the dispatcher to hear James. While driving, James saw a police vehicle and ‘freaked out.’ James threatened he would drive the car into a concrete barrier if the cops became involved. In addition, James also threatened to kill himself if Ashely left. Ashely continued to tell me James has made several threats in the past to kill himself, her, and her family. Furthermore, Ashely said she has past incidents of domestic violence and threats of homicide/suicide recorded. I saw no visible injuries to Ashely, she provided me with a written statement, and was issued a victim’s pamphlet. It should be noted Ashely was trembling as she wrote her statement.

The deputy then returned to Kincannon, who reportedly denied grabbing his wife’s arm and threatening to kill himself. He “did say Ashely informed him she wanted out of the car at which time he pulled into a ‘Chik-fil-A’ parking lot,” according to the report, but “Upon entering the parking lot, Ashely changed her mind and said she did not want to get out.”

The officer wrote that because of “Ashely’s statements of James killing himself,” the officer called in an EMS unit, who transported Kincannon to Lexington Medical Center for “further evaluation.”

Kincannon’s response

Reached via text message on Friday, Kincannon gave the following explanation for what happened Thursday night:

Here’s what happened last night: I had a severe upper respiratory infection, and I’m the kind of guy who never goes to the doctor. I finally went and was prescribed something called Benzonatate for my cough. I’d never taken it before, and took it for the first time last night. Basically, I went completely crazy after taking it. I don’t even remember all of it. My wife called 911 because she was worried about me and my behavior was way out of character and erratic, and she was afraid for her safety and mine. The cops came and they called EMS, and EMS took me to Lexington Medical Center. My blood pressure on scene was something like 190 over 130 and I was tachycardic. The ER doctor at LMC saw me and I was diagnosed … with an allergic reaction to Benzonatate. Apparently a very small percentage of people go absolutely nuts when they take the stuff, and I’m apparently in that very small percentage. I had calmed down by the time I got to LMC and they let me go after a brief evaluation. I’m totally fine now and not taking any more Benzonatate.

They need to add a warning label to Benzonatate: “Warning: May cause people to go completely nuts.”

Kincannon attached a photo of a prescription bottle of Benzonatate with his name on the label. He later added that the reaction was “most likely my fault for chewing the capsule and accidentally overdosing.” He adds: “You’d think a guy with my IQ would know better, but I have to admit I didn’t pay any attention to the instructions when I took the stuff. I just wanted to stop coughing my head off and took the prescription without reading the label. Lesson learned, and as Admiral James T. Kirk would say, ‘double dumbass’ on me. (That’s a Star Trek IV reference in case you’re curious.)”

WebMD lists confusion and hallucination as possible side effects of benzonatate.

The City Paper asked Kincannon to comment on the allegations of death and suicide threats and domestic abuse, and he wrote:

My wife says she only discussed stuff that happened since I’d been on the Benzonatate, which hadn’t been very long. Once we got to the hospital and it got out of my system, I went back to normal and am totally fine now.

When asked how long he had been taking Benzonatate, Kincannon said he had the prescription filled on March 5 and started taking the capsules daily. “I recall taking them but don’t recall chewing any until yesterday,” he said on Friday.

Meanwhile on Twitter

Since serving a two-month stint as executive director of the SCGOP in 2010, Kincannon has gained national notoriety for his use of Twitter. He often earned the ire of left-leaning media outlets for his tweets on topics including Trayvon Martin, transgender people, and the 2014 shootings at UC Santa Barbara. Kincannon has held that his activity on Twitter was “purely satire, some self-parody.”

He originally tweeted under the account @toddkincannon, but it was suspended in 2014 after he says liberal “brownshirt types” reported his account for abuse en masse. He later started tweeting at @todd__kincannon, but that account has also since been suspended.

In July 2014, Kincannon filed a lawsuit against the S.C. Commission of Lawyer Conduct, S.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, and ODC employees Lesley Coggiola and Barbara Seymour. In the lawsuit, Kincannon claimed that the ODC had been investigating him for use of Twitter for two years. He alleged that the investigation violated his “fundamental rights of free speech, equal protection, and due process.” A U.S. district judge dismissed Kincannon’s complaint on Feb. 2, 2015, after a magistrate judge recommended that the case be dropped because Kincannon had failed to serve a summons and complaint to the defendants within 120 days.

Reached by phone Friday, Coggiola said that she could not comment on whether Kincannon was currently under investigation, but that her office had not brought charges against him in the state Supreme Court. An employee at the South Carolina Bar says that Kincannon is a member in good standing and that the Bar has not taken disciplinary action against him.

Support the Charleston City Paper

We’ve been covering Charleston since 1997 and plan to be here with the latest and Best of Charleston for many years to come. In a time where local journalism is struggling, the City Paper is investing in the future of Charleston as a place where diverse, engaging views can flourish. We can't do it without our readers. If you'd like to support local, independent journalism:



Before You Go:

Connelly Hardaway

COVID-19 updates: The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced TK new cases of the coronavirus today, bringing the state total to TK. All nursing homes getting tested: This week DHEC announced that it will test all residents and staff members at nursing homes in the state for COVID-19. DHEC director Rick […]


Gaillard Center’s 2020-2021 season features Broadway musicals, chamber orchestras, and an iconic dance company

While so much of the world has seemed to come to a standstill, area arts organizations and venues continue to plan for their upcoming seasons — offering a shimmer of hope at the end of this coronavirus tunnel. The Gaillard Center promises “10 sensational performances” during this upcoming season, including two Lowcountry Broadway premieres.

Brookgreen Gardens opens new outdoor exhibit, “Southern Light,” on May 15

Murrell’s Inlet’s Brookgreen Gardens is currently open, 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. And, after its original opening date was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bruce Munro’s massive outdoor light installation, Southern Light, will open to the public on Fri. May 15.

Sam Reynolds

Sam Reynolds, a Lowcountry folk songwriter who now resides in Vermont, released a collection of soft, subtle, and stirring piano instrumentals on May 1 titled Broken Tulips.

Charleston Wine + Food Festival says 2020 event had $19.9 million local economic impact

A survey by the College of Charleston reports that 54% of the 28,000 Charleston Wine + Food attendees were local.