A veteran law enforcement officer running for Berkeley County sheriff says he is being unfairly tarnished by false and demoralizing rumors attempting to link him to an investigation into possible corruption in the department.
“My four years I ran that drug unit, there was never an allegation against me,” said Ricky Driggers, a retired sheriff’s major who has been rumored to be part of the investigation. “Never has there been one complaint about missing money, missing drugs, nothing. No complaints. I’ve never, ever instructed anybody to do anything illegal, immoral or anything like that. It’s ridiculous, the rumors about me. It’s totally, totally ridiculous.”
Driggers is one of 14 Republican candidates in the April 21 special primary for sheriff. The post was left vacant in February when Wayne DeWitt stepped down after his arrest on a drunken driving charge.
Authorities have said the three-year FBI probe grew from accusations that agents from the sheriff’s drug unit ordered an informant to plant drugs in a woman’s home. The woman was to testify during the resentencing phase for Jesse Sapp, whose death penalty for killing a state trooper in 2002 had been overturned.
“I am in no way, shape or form involved in Sapp’s case,” said Driggers, who had command powers over the department’s narcotics unit.
The Sapp case has made headlines recently because of a motion filed in January by his attorney, Public Defender Ashley Pennington, which will be heard by a judge April 30. The motion is the first known public document that referred to the FBI’s lengthy probe of the Sheriff’s Office.
FBI agents arrested one deputy during the years in which the agency has been investigated, but sheriff’s commanders have said that arrest was unrelated to the broader probe.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Riley sold two firearms to an accused methamphetamine trafficker in late 2013, according to the FBI. He was indicted in April, when court documents stated that the FBI investigation ended, and his February trial ended in a hung jury.
After State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry said the investigation of the department centers on former employees, rumors started swirling throughout the county.
Berry on Friday referred questions to the FBI. Calls to the FBI on Friday went unanswered, but in the past officials have said they were not allowed to comment about the probe.
“Of course I knew they (rumors) were going to come up,” Driggers said. “People can say anything about anybody, but an investigation is an investigation. It doesn’t mean somebody’s guilty.”
Driggers was called to testify in front of the federal grand jury in 2012 but said he has heard nothing since then.
“That’s the truth, but I can’t stop what people say,” he said. “How can I defend myself when I’m not allowed to divulge what I was asked? I have to sit there and just take the beating. It’s demoralizing and it really hurts.”
Jerry Theos, Driggers’ attorney, said that no one was charged in the wake of the probe.
“The investigation of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office was ended long ago,” Theos said. “And, unlike many other sheriff’s offices throughout the state, there was no finding of any corruption and, further, no employees were criminally charged or prosecuted. There should thus be no further discussion regarding the matter.”
Berry recently confirmed that an investigation is ongoing and that the targets of the joint federal and state corruption probe are no longer employed at the Sheriff’s Office.
Driggers said last month that he would “cooperate fully” with any investigating agency.
The 56-year-old retired from the Sheriff’s Office in April 2013 because of high blood pressure.
“Call it bad timing, call it whatever you want, but I left because I didn’t feel good,” he said.
“The people that really know me, they know what kind of person I really am. I look in the mirror every morning and I see a good person. I’m at peace with me.”
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.