U.S. Attorney's Office
District of South Carolina
(803) 929-3000
April 27, 2015

Former Lexington County Sheriff James R. Metts Sentenced

COLUMBIA, SC—United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that James R. Metts, age 68, was sentenced today in federal court in Columbia, South Carolina, for Conspiracy to Harbor Illegal Aliens, a violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I). Chief United States District Judge Terry L. Wooten sentenced Metts to 12 months and one day in prison, two years of supervised release, and a $10,000 fine.

Evidence presented throughout the prosecution established that Metts was the forty-two year sheriff of Lexington County. Beginning in September 2011, Metts agreed with a City Councilman, and an owner of local restaurants, to assist restaurant employees to avoid identification and processing by a federal immigration program housed at the Lexington County Detention Center. As one example, on September 16, 2011, a restaurant employee who was an illegal alien was arrested and transported to the detention center. The restaurant owner contacted the City Councilman who in turn called Metts and requested assistance. Metts contacted a member of his command staff about the illegal alien. Based on Metts’ early intervention, this alien was released improperly on a state bond prior to being identified or processed by federal immigration authorities as reflected in the federal immigration logbook with the notation, “Release per Sheriff Metts.”

Bill Nettles stated, “One of the cornerstones of democracy is citizens having faith that law enforcement acts with integrity and not in a self-serving ‘good ole boy’ system. Today’s resolution is a step towards restoring the shine to the badge that Mr. Metts tarnished.”

The case was part of the cooperative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigation, State Law Enforcement Division, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, and the United States Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Jay N. Richardson and Jim May prosecuted the case.

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