News 12 at 6 o' clock / Monday, Aug. 6, 2012
AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. -- Former Saluda County Sheriff Jason Booth pleaded guilty before an Aiken County judge on Monday.
He took a plea deal for office misconduct after using an inmate to work on his private property.
His defense attorney, Johnny Guesser, says, "He knows that he let the people of Saluda County and his fellow officers down."
A packed Aiken County courtroom listened as the former South Carolina Sheriff of the Year pleaded guilty to misconduct in office.
"Sad thing about it is, that Jason Booth for 11 years provided incredible service to the citizens of Saluda County," Guesser said.
But that service is now marred by a lengthy list of misconduct involving a Department of Corrections trustee that Booth used to work on his private property.
The convcited felon was serving 15 years for trafficking methamphetamine. He provided manual labor for Booth on his property, inlcuding welding a large gate, digging a pond and constructing what the prosecution called a "party shed." In exchange, the inmate was allowed to spend nights away from the detention center at a shed on Booth's property, wear street clothes rather than a prison uniform, have conjugal visits with his girlfriend (one that resulted in a child), have access to a four-wheeler, travel out of town to visit family, attend parties on Booth's property, and to top it off, Booth even told him he would help get his sentence reduced.
The defense argued that public humiliation and the loss of a career should be considered part of the punishment.
"We are satisfied. We think the judge exercised very, very good discretion. He realizes that Jason Booth has been extremely punished already," Guesser said.
The judge fined Booth $1,000 and reduced his year in prison to five years of probation.