MONCKS CORNER — A grand jury on Tuesday indicted former Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt on charges related to his December drunken driving arrest.
DeWitt was indicted on charges of DUI, leaving the scene of an accident and failure to stop for blue lights, according to a release issued Tuesday by 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson.
The potential penalty for DUI is $400 or 48 hours to 30 days in prison, or 48 hours of community service in lieu of prison. Leaving the scene carries a fine of up to $5,000 or up to a year in prison, or both; and failure to stop is punishable by not less than $500 or 90 days to 3 years in jail.
“As a lawyer and prosecutor, I am subject to special rules which limit my ability to make public comments about pending cases and defendants in criminal matters,” Wilson said. “For these reasons, my office will not be commenting on the merits of the charges against Mr. Dewitt. The rules also require that I remind the public that Mr. Dewitt is presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty.”
DeWitt, who had served as sheriff for 20 years, resigned Feb. 4 saying his arrest had cast a cloud over his post. He was arrested Dec. 28 after his county pickup was seen speeding from a police car at 108 mph, authorities said.
He allegedly fled from a crash site, authorities said, and was charged at the time with DUI and misdemeanor hit-and-run.
DeWitt had vowed to restore the public’s trust in him but said in a letter of resignation that the only way he could do that was to resign.
“I know and understand the entire situation is the product of my own failures,” he said in a statement announcing his resignation. “As an elected official, as sheriff and as a person, I recognize that I must be held accountable. ... I can no longer be an effective public servant regardless of how the legal process unfolds.”
DeWitt was driving under the influence of alcohol or another drug that causes impairment, did not stop for law enforcement after being signaled to do so, and “did not take reasonable steps to notify the owner or person in charge of the damaged vehicle of his name and address,” according to the indictments.
Gedney Howe, DeWitt’s lawyer, did not immediately return calls for comment on Tuesday.
Six Republicans announced their plans to run for Berkeley County sheriff on Saturday. They were Charleston County sheriff’s Lt. Danny Isgett, retired Highway Patrol officer Marty Housand, North Charleston Police Department Lt. Brian Adams, Santee Cooper Law Enforcement Deputy Chief Duane Lewis, Charleston County Aviation Authority police officer and former Berkeley County deputy Jerry Merrithew and Bonneau Police Chief Franco Fuda.
The county Senate delegation recommended Calvitt “Chab” Clarke, 59, a retired SLED agent who lives in the Summerville area, to Gov. Nikki Haley as a possible temporary replacement.
Haley’s appointment would serve until a special election is held and could not run for office.
Berkeley County Chief Deputy Rick Ollic is running the department until then.
Filing for the office opens on Feb. 20 and runs through March 2. The primary election will be on April 21 with a runoff two weeks later, if needed. The special election will be on June 9.
Brenda Rindge contributed to this report. Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.