Ex-Dorchester jail chief appears in court

Arnold Pastor

COLUMBIA — Arnold Pastor, the former Dorchester County jail chief accused of embezzling nearly $360,000, showed up in court Tuesday to face the judge and was freed on personal recognizance.

It was Pastor's first public appearance since he resigned in October after an audit showed the money was missing.

Sharply dressed in a black suit with his hair shaved on the sides and short on top, stoic expression firmly in place and standing well over 6 feet tall, he could have been a model for a military recruiting poster.

It was enough to make Circuit Judge L. Casey Manning ask at one point, "Is he former military?"

"No, sir," said Pastor, who was a SWAT team leader, firearms instructor and master diver.

It was one of the few times Pastor spoke. He declined to comment on the advice of his attorney, Robby Robbins.

Manning set Pastor's bail at $150,000 and released him on his own recognizance.

Pastor has admitted taking money over seven years, cooperated in the investigation and is not a flight risk, Robbins told the judge.

Pastor appeared in court with his wife, Tammy, and minister, the Rev. David Brien of First Baptist Church of Holly Hill. He and Tammy have been married since 1986 and have a daughter in college. The Pastors have been attending First Baptist for about six months, Brien told the judge.

The audit was prompted by council members investigating Nash's budget overruns. Pastor was indicted by a state grand jury last week after the State Law Enforcement Division investigated. The Attorney General's Office is prosecuting the case.

Pastor could get up to 10 years in prison for the felony embezzlement charge, but he also could get a lesser sentence, including probation, Robbins said. Robbins said he expects the case to be resolved by the end of the year.

Pastor says he took money from the jail but does not know how much, Robbins said. He has not seen forensic auditor Ron Wise's report and has not confirmed how much he spent, Robbins said.

Robbins said Pastor wants to repay whatever he took. He owns a house in St. George that burned down in October, the same month the audit started. That was a coincidence, Robbins said. Pastor is using the insurance money to repair the house to sell it to repay the money he took, Robbins said. The house is valued at $114,100, according to the audit. The Pastors are living in a mobile home on the property while the house is repaired.

Pastor also owns a rental house worth $56,200 in Hanahan, which he also could use to repay the debt, Robbins said.

"He's trying to do the right thing," Robbins said.

The audit shows that between Jan. 1, 2001, and Oct. 31, 2007, $359,615.57 was spent from the account Pastor set up. More than $280,000 was taken out in cash from bank money machines, and the rest was spent on cruises, purchases at Wal-Mart and on the Internet, and stays at Econo Lodges, according to the final audit report released Monday.

The money in the account came from inmate phone calls, haircuts, medical charges, snacks and processing fees, as well as money inmates had on them when they were put in jail.