Threatening to stuff someone’s head in a crab trap could get you in trouble with the law. But it’s no crime just to wish you could see the noggin of a nemesis used as crustacean bait.
That’s the conclusion Charleston County Sheriff’s Office investigators reached after examining a complaint taxpayer advocate David Coe filed against the husband of county Auditor Peggy Moseley, a frequent target of Coe’s gripes.
Coe claimed that James Moseley threatened his life in a confrontation over a campaign sign last week outside Coe’s James Island home. Coe told deputies that Moseley said, “I am going to take care of you!! Your head should be in one of my crab pots,” according to a police report.
Deputies interviewed two witnesses who said they heard Moseley say he “wished” he could put Coe’s head in a crab trap. Moseley acknowledged saying something to that effect in his statement to deputies.
But Moseley’s desire for such a result did not constitute a threat to make it come to pass, sheriff’s Maj. Jim Brady said.
Brady said deputies didn’t hear the exchange themselves, and the evidence in hand does not warrant criminal charges against Moseley. Investigators informed Coe that he could take the matter directly to a magistrate if he wished to pursue it further, he said.
Coe, a 65-year-old retired boat captain, said he’s ready to drop the matter. He’s already been to a magistrate twice with nothing to show for it, he said.
Coe said a magistrate told him on his first visit that a deputy’s report had been filled out improperly and failed to include Moseley’s full name and personal information. When a more complete report was provided, the magistrate explained that a restraining order could not be issued against James Moseley unless threats had been made on at least two occasions, he said.
“I’m done,” Coe said. “I’ve kind of washed my hands of the whole thing.”
James Moseley could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Peggy Moseley said the entire encounter was unfortunate but “I don’t believe there ever was a threat.”
Coe had tried to prove a pattern of threatening behavior on James Moseley’s part by shopping around copies of an affidavit filed in a 2006 lawsuit against the auditor by her former deputy, Ronald Hall.
The lawsuit alleged that Peggy Moseley defamed Hall, then fired him without cause after she wrongly concluded that he told others about a property-tax break she had been receiving in error until late 2005. It also charged the county with negligence in the episode. Moseley denied the lawsuit’s claims.
During the legal wrangling, Hall alleged that James Moseley threatened him on Meeting Street in May 2008 after a mediation session in the case. He stated in an affidavit that James Moseley drove up in a truck, cursed at him and said, “I’m gonna beat you bad.”
The lawsuit was settled in November 2008, and Hall later was hired by a different county department.
Coe said Hall’s encounter with James Moseley shows the latter has a history of anger issues. Peggy Moseley said her husband denies ever threatening Hall.
Coe has been a relentless critic of Peggy Moseley since 2009, when he pushed the county to be more diligent about collecting taxes on yachts. He said more than $800,000 in county boat taxes has been collected in recent years in large part because of his efforts.
He and Peggy Moseley have tangled many times since. Most recently, Coe filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission in April accusing Moseley of driving her county car to GOP offices to file for re-election. Moseley later reimbursed the county 16 cents for that trip.
Moseley currently is serving her fifth four-year term as auditor. To win a sixth, she must defeat two Republican opponents: former Charleston County School Board member David Engelman and former Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Paul Gawrych.
The GOP winner will face Democrat Peter Tecklenburg and possibly a petition candidate this fall.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.