Innocent Man Jailed While Hammond Campaigns
June 16, 2002
Did you read in the newspaper last week about the Spartanburg man who was kept in jail three months after the charges levied against him were dropped? I could not believe this could actually happen, but it did right in our own backyard! If it was me who was wrongfully jailed, you better believe that a lawsuit would be filed against Spartanburg County in a New York minute! Yet, even as horrendous as this story was in and of itself, there was something else about it that was even more disconcerting to me!
In case you missed the story, Philip Daniel Means Jr. was arrested in Spartanburg in July 2001 and charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. However, the 23-year-old Spartanburg man had his case dismissed on March 15, 2002. Nevertheless, the legal documents from the Spartanburg County Clerk Of Courtís office were not received by the county jail until June 11th. That was nearly three months after Means was declared an innocent man by the court! Jail officials claim they were not permitted to release Means until the paperwork reached them from the Spartanburg County Court of Clerkís office.
An investigation of the failed procedures by court officials and the director of the Spartanburg County jail is now underway. The focus of the investigation should be on Spartanburg County Clerk of Court Mark Hammond. The documents that would have freed this innocent man sat on Hammondís desk for the past three months! Everyone wants to know how something like this could have happened. Thus far, there have not been any concrete answers provided, just excuses.
The lack of an integrated computer system between the Spartanburg County Clerk of Courtís office and the Spartanburg County jail has been blamed so far for the miscommunication. The new computer system is forthcoming, but it does not explain why the paperwork was not delivered to the county jail promptly after charges were dropped!
Spartanburg County Clerk of Court Mark Hammond, who has been running statewide for the Republican nomination for Secretary of State since the beginning of the year, said he was sorry that this happened and that he was committed to preventing it from happening again. In other words, his excuse was OOOPS!!!
After his surprising first place finish in Tuesdayís primary race for Secretary of State, this new controversy may cloud Hammondís chances of defeating former South Carolina Policy Council President Ed McMullen in the runoff race on June 25th. This unnecessary faux pas by Mark Hammond happened because he has been out of town traveling around the state campaigning (and fleecing the taxpayers of Spartanburg County in the process as I have written about in a previous article). Hammondís statewide campaign schedule has prevented him from taking care of his elected duties as Spartanburg County Clerk of Court!
Mark Hammondís inexcusable breach of his elected duty is beyond reprehensible! His inaction directly resulted in an innocent man being robbed of three months of his life! Means has not decided yet whether or not he is going to sue Spartanburg County. If he does, though, then the civil lawsuit award he is owed should come directly out of Mark Hammondís pocket! Had Hammond been doing his job, this incident would have never happened!
A quick look at the South Carolina constitution reveals that the primary duties of the Secretary of State include handling business paperwork and watching over the fundraising activities of non-profit organizations. Mark Hammond has boasted about how his law enforcement background and experience in running the Spartanburg Clerk of Courtís office are reasons why he should be the Republican challenger against Democrat Rick Wade to replace Jim Miles as Secretary of State. But if this recent mistake by Mark Hammond is the kind of work he has done in his menial role as Spartanburg County Clerk of Court, then what kind of statewide official can we expect him to be? Can we really afford to have these kind of things happening on the state level, too? Is someone who says OOOPS to mistakes the type of person we want running the Secretary of Stateís office?
These are serious questions that voters need to ask themselves before the June 25th runoff in the Secretary of Stateís race.