Cannon charged with assault for slapping suspect
Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon was arrested Tuesday and booked into the jail that bears his name.
The sheriff was charged with third-degree assault and battery for slapping a handcuffed suspect after a car chase, according to the State Law Enforcement Division.
At about 7 p.m., Cannon, 65, was booked and fingerprinted at the Al Cannon Detention Center, SLED said. He was released a short time later.
The arrest was a result of a SLED investigation requested by the Sheriff’s Office. Cannon will be prosecuted by the 16th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett, of York County, recommended that SLED charge Cannon with the misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of 30 days in jail or a $500 fine.
Cannon won’t contest the charge but acknowledged that he may have to undergo anger-management classes as part of his punishment.
“That was inappropriate and was especially inappropriate for the head of a law enforcement agency to act in such a manner,” Cannon said Tuesday about hitting suspect Timothy McManus.
Cannon’s comments came shortly after Brackett’s misdemeanor recommendation. Magistrate Alvin Bligen signed the warrant for SLED.
The charge covers incidents when physical contact is made but doesn’t reach moderate or significant bodily injury.
The charge won’t preclude Cannon from serving in office or in law enforcement. He confirmed Tuesday that he has no intention of stepping down. “I have admitted that I’m less than perfect,” he said.
Since Cannon has no prior criminal record, he is eligible to enter a pre-trial diversion program, giving him the opportunity to have the charge cleared before going to court, if he meets certain criteria.
He said he has not decided if he would plead guilty outright or pursue the intervention route.
McManus, 31, was reportedly driving with a suspended license when Cannon said the suspect’s Dodge Ram nearly collided with the sheriff’s vehicle Jan. 30.
The encounter ignited a 25-mile chase through East Cooper that reached speeds of 120 mph and ended when Cannon and deputies shot out the pickup truck’s tires in the Francis Marion National Forest.
A police dog bit McManus’ arm as deputies subdued him, and Cannon later slapped a handcuffed McManus in the face, two acts that drew public criticism, though Cannon quickly acknowledged his wrongdoing. McManus faces two traffic tickets and misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and failure to stop for blue lights.
In Brackett’s report, he said deputies acted with appropriate force in subduing McManus that day, and could not have known when he reached under his body that he didn’t have a weapon.
“They were justified in using the force they needed to get him under control,” he wrote.
Cannon, on the other hand, admitted to slapping McManus as he sat handcuffed in a sheriff’s vehicle, Brackett said.
“That is a violation of South Carolina law, and I think evidence would support a charge of third-degree assault,” he said.
Brackett said his investigation include a half-hour interview with McManus at the county jail.
The solicitor declined to characterize McManus’ view of the incident, or whether Mcmanus considered himself a victim. “I’d let him speak for himself,” Brackett said. “Obviously he was upset by his situation.”
McManus, of Mount Pleasant, bonded out of the jail Tuesday for a series of new traffic charges he picked up Monday. Deputies found him sleeping behind the wheel of a sport-utility vehicle that was still in drive.
He faces a count of third- offense driving under suspension, being a habitual offender, borrowing or lending a license tag, and operating an uninsured motor vehicle. A call and email to McManus’ attorney Tuesday was not returned.
SLED completed its report on the pursuit in late spring, and Brackett was asked to review the findings for possible charges because he has no ties to anyone involved in the incident.
On Tuesday, Cannon apologized to the public, law enforcement, his staff and to McManus, saying his actions were out of bounds for anyone who wears a badge.
“I’m expected to set the example and I failed to do so in that act,” he said.