Orangeburg man charged in 2010 murder-for-hire attack on state prison guard

Dr. Stephen Fann checks out the area where Robert Johnson was shot six times back in March of 2010. (Brad Nettles/ 3/14/13

Brad Nettles

U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles announced today that 29-year-old Sean Echols of Orangeburg has been charged in a murder-for-hire plot targeting a state corrections officer.

Echols appeared in court today for an arraignment before United States Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges.

He was charged last month in a three-count sealed indictment with conspiring with others to murder South Carolina Corrections Captain Robert Johnson in return for a payment of $6,000 in cash.

He is also charged with using facilities of interstate commerce in connection with the attempted murder of Captain Johnson and using and discharging a firearm in connection with a crime of violence. Nettles said the indictment was unsealed today before Magistrate Judge Hodges.

Echols faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted of either count one or two of the indictment. Count three, the firearms count, carries a mandatory minimum term of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum term of life, which must be imposed to run consecutively to any other sentence Echols is serving.

Captain Johnson worked to rid the Lee County Correctional Facility in Bishopville of contraband prior to his shooting at his Sumter home on March 5, 2010.

Johnson, 59, worked for the state Department of Corrections for 16 years before he retired in June 2011. The attack left him disabled.

An inmate inside Lee Correctional allegedly used a smuggled cellphone to order a hit on Johnson because he was cracking down on contraband at the maximum-security prison, authorities said.

As Johnson was preparing for work, a gunman broke down the front door of his home and shot Johnson six times in the chest and stomach in front of his wife.

Johnson and his wife, Mary, are now suing 20 cellphone companies and cellular tower owners in connection with the attack, alleging that these companies had the ability to block inmate calls but chose not to.

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