Former Berkeley County sheriff’s deputy pleads guilty to illegal gun sale

A former Berkeley County sheriff’s deputy has pleaded guilty to an illegal gun sale, avoiding a second trial after the first ended with a hung jury.

Tony Riley worked as a courthouse deputy for the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office in late 2013 when he sold a .38-caliber revolver to a person who wasn’t allowed to have a gun, FBI agents said in an indictment.

In exchange for his guilty plea on that federal charge, a second count was expected to be dismissed, an agreement filed March 22 in U.S. District Court stated.

Riley, who had once served as a sheriff’s supervisor, faces up to 10 years in prison. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

The Goose Creek resident is in his 60s.

His attorney, Beau Seaton of Moncks Corner, declined to comment Tuesday because his client had not yet been sentenced.

Riley’s arrest two years ago came during a broad FBI probe into the Sheriff’s Office, but officials insisted that the accusations against him did not stem from that investigation. Though grand jury hearings were held, no one was indicted in the more sweeping federal examination that included an accusation of witness tampering.

Each of Riley’s two charges accused him of selling a firearm to someone under indictment for a crime that carries at least a year in prison. In addition to the Smith & Wesson revolver he admitted to selling on Dec. 19, 2013, FBI agents said Riley handed over a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun to someone two days before that.

He was fired after sheriff’s officials learned of his arrest in April 2014.

Riley then stood trial in February 2015, but a jury couldn’t agree on his guilt during deliberations, and a judge declared a mistrial. With a second trial set for next week, Riley appeared in court last month to change his plea.

He has been free on $25,000 bail.

Riley had served at the Sheriff’s Office for more than 18 years, but his time there ended with a series of demotions before his eventual ouster.

He spent most of his career as a correctional deputy at the county jail, where he was faulted for mistakes in an inmate’s 2012 escape and was knocked from lieutenant to sergeant. He later took a job as a private first class at the courthouse, where he was working when the FBI agents arrested him.

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