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Former Berkeley sheriff pleads guilty in DUI case, gets probation

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Former Berkeley sheriff pleads guilty in DUI case, gets probation

Former Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt stands outside the courthouse Monday after pleading guilty to a DUI charge and failing to comply with lawful directions.

— Acknowledging that he had a problem with alcohol, former Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt pleaded guilty on Monday to charges in connection with a drunken driving arrest a year ago.

During an afternoon court hearing, DeWitt was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to serve 60 hours of community service.

DeWitt, 64, entered the pleas on charges of driving under the influence and failure to comply with lawful directions. A 30-day jail sentence was suspended on each charge. He had been arrested Dec. 28, 2014, on counts of leaving an accident scene, failure to stop for blue lights and DUI.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said the person whose car DeWitt struck did not want to press charges and would be deployed with the military during a trial, making it difficult to prosecute. She also said that the Hanahan Police Department did not charge DeWitt with failure to stop for blue lights and that the officer who stopped him made comments after the incident that weren’t in line with the facts, which might also have affected prosecution.

“I had some real concerns about that,” Wilson said. “I still have concerns about that.”

For those reasons, DeWitt was offered a lesser charge in addition to the DUI charge, Wilson said. DeWitt said at the courthouse that he wanted to accept responsibility. He attended an outpatient rehabilitation program and has been sober for nine months, he said.

“I made a very grave mistake, very costly,” he said after the proceeding, “but I came to court today to be held accountable for my actions.”

Sheriff for 20 years and a deputy for two decades before that, DeWitt resigned his post in February as he faced indictment. Duane Lewis later won a special election to replace him.

Judge J.C. Nicholson said at the hearing Monday that if it weren’t for the alcoholism, he would have held DeWitt to a higher standard than the public because of his law enforcement experience.

“You knew better,” he said.

DeWitt said he was sorry numerous times throughout and after the hearing, noting that he could not apologize enough.

He was driving his county-owned pickup that early December morning when he rear-ended a car near Goose Creek. The car’s driver was not seriously hurt.

Its lights flashing, a Hanahan police cruiser pulled behind him after he left the crash site, and his pickup hit 108 mph before eventually stopping two minutes later and 2 miles down the road. DeWitt left the pickup in gear when he got out to meet with officers. A policeman jumped on the Ford and stopped it from rolling farther ahead. DeWitt later swayed and stumbled during a field sobriety test.

On Monday, DeWitt said he is attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and a judge ordered him to continue doing so twice a week. Since his arrest, he has spoken at youth programs, he said.

“I plan to move forward with my life,” he said, “and to live in a very positive fashion.”

Andrew Knapp contributed to this report. Reach Melissa Boughton at 843-937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughtonPC.

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