Judge rejects Metts' plea deal in bribery case

James Metts

COLUMBIA, S.C. - A federal judge has rejected a plea deal from former Lexington County Sheriff James Metts that would have kept the longtime lawman from going to prison

U.S. District Judge Terry Wooten said Wednesday there was too much of a disparity between a possible sentence of 16 months in prison and the three years probation to which both defense attorneys and prosecutors had agreed.

Metts had prepared to plead guilty to stepping in to keep two men in the country illegally from ending up in a federal database. Wooten told attorneys to prepare for trial, which is scheduled to begin next month.

Metts' attorney says the government's case is weak, and the sheriff opted for the deal to try to put the charge behind him.