Conviction overturned after court says target of threats wasn’t public official

Anthony Bailey

A state appeals court on Wednesday overturned a North Charleston man’s conviction because the mental health examiner he threatened to kill wasn’t a public official, its ruling found.

Two years ago, a judge found Anthony Bailey guilty of threatening a public official’s life and sentenced him to one-and-a half-years in prison.

State law makes such a threat against a government official a more serious crime than if the victim were just an employee. The difference is a maximum prison term of five years compared with 30 days in jail on the lesser charge.

In its ruling, a three-judge panel at the S.C. Court of Appeals unanimously determined that the state mental health worker was only a public employee, partially because the job’s “duties were not directed to the public at large.”

Bailey, 39, a North Atlantic Avenue resident and felon with dozens of arrests since 1994, had already spent time in prison and had been released by the time the court handed down its opinion.

Appellate Defender Kathrine Hudgins argued the appeal. Attorney General Alan Wilson, Assistant Attorney General Susannah Cole and 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson fought it.

Amy Cradock, the local worker for the S.C. Department of Mental Health, served as a designated mental health examiner for the Charleston County jail in August 2013. Bailey was being held there on a North Charleston municipal charge of wearing masks.

Jail officials asked Cradock to examine Bailey, who suffered from bipolar disorder, after he threatened detention officers, the appeals court opinion stated. He then turned his agitation toward Cradock, offering to add her name to his hit list if she didn’t walk out fast enough.

“I’m adding you to the list anyway,” he said as she left, the court papers stated. “I’m going to kill you, too.”

Records showed that he then was charged with threatening a public employee, but that lesser count was dismissed during a preliminary hearing. Circuit Judge Knox McMahon convicted him of the more serious charge during a September 2014 bench trial. In addition to his prison sentence, Bailey got five years of probation.

In the appeal, the judges were tasked with deciding whether Cradock’s job qualified her as a public official or just an employee.

The law defines an official as an elected or appointed person. The court said Cradock indeed was appointed, but its analysis didn’t stop there. It laid out four other factors: whether the job was created by the General Assembly, whether the post’s qualifications are set by law, whether the worker’s duties are on the law books and whether the person “is a representative of the sovereign.”

The court said “yes” to the first two. But the last two didn’t apply, it ruled.

A mental health examiner’s duties are not laid out completely in the law, the judges found. The jurists also couldn’t find a basis for calling examiners, whose duties are limited to the patients they see, officials with broad impact on public policy.

“Simply put,” the court ruled, “Bailey was overcharged in this case.”

Reach Andrew Knapp at 843-937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.