COLUMBIA — The man who had been South Carolina’s longest-serving sheriff was sentenced Monday to one year and one day in prison after pleading guilty in a corruption scheme.

U.S. District Judge Terry Wooten also fined former Lexington County Sheriff James Metts $10,000.

Metts had been the county’s top lawman for more than four decades when he was indicted last year.

Prosecutors said he took money from a restaurant owner in exchange for keeping employees from being arrested for being in the country illegally.

He agreed late last year to plead guilty to harboring people who were in the country illegally. Metts originally was indicted on 10 charges.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys said they did not think Metts needed to go to prison. He previously reached a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to one count — conspiracy to harbor certain aliens. The charge carried up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but it would have given Metts three years of probation instead.

Prosecutors said the agreement was fair because Metts stepped in only for two people charged with traffic offenses who had no criminal record.

But Wooten refused to accept the deal. Federal guidelines for that felony charge call for five months to 16 months in prison, and Wooten said it bothered him that Metts would not face any prison time.

Days later, Metts and prosecutors signed a second agreement, this time making no mention of a sentence recommendation but also agreeing to drop the remaining nine counts if he cooperated.


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