$1.6M ruling goes against Richland County sheriff

LEXINGTON, S.C. - A Lexington County jury awarded a woman $1.6 million after she sued Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott over her investigation and arrest in an estate dispute three years ago.

Lawyers for Kay Paschal argued she was hounded by Richland County deputies before her arrest and was strip searched and tossed in jail before a judge dismissed forgery and breach of trust charges, according to The (Columbia) State newspaper.

Paschal's lawyers say she was a caretaker and common-law wife of Columbia businessman David Wallace, and had a claim to share and was the personal representative of his $6 million estate. Wallace's two adult children tried to remove her as representative after he died.

The children reported to deputies that Paschal bought a $63,000 wheelchair-equipped van with Wallace's money after he suffered a stroke in June 2010, about eight months before he died.

A Lexington County investigator looked into the case and determined Paschal bought the van with Wallace's cooperation and declined to file charges, Paschal's lawyers said.

But Richland County Sheriff's Lt. Heidi Scott pushed other authorities in Lexington County to pursue the case, and Paschal was arrested in November 2011 and charged with forgery and breach of trust, according to court documents. Her arrest happened the same day as a hearing in Wallace's estate, and she was removed as a representative because she was not in court.

A judge dropped the charges against Paschal, and she sued the sheriff.

"I stand fully behind the actions of all my deputies who were involved in this case," Lott said.

The sheriff said his deputies are pursuing filing similar criminal charges against Paschal in Richland County. He said he couldn't talk about the facts of Paschal's case because an appeal of her lawsuit is pending.


Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com