Nash bashes 'outrageous' ruling

A jury was chosen Wednesday for Randy Scott's trial, but the case was dismissed Thursday.

SUMMERVILLE — A day after a magistrate threw out a DUI case against state Sen. Randy Scott, Dorchester County Sheriff Ray Nash called the ruling "outrageous" and defended the arrest video that led Magistrate Phillip Newsome to dismiss the case.

On Friday, Nash and 7th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Barry Barnette played the segment of video that Newsome said was missing a minute and 10 seconds of audio.

While the video played on a screen, Barnette pointed to icons that he said showed that the arresting officer's microphone was on at all times. He also pointed out background noise during the segment, such as the deputy's radio, that he said showed the microphone was working.

"There's no glitch," Barnette said. "There's no gap. There is nothing but continuous feed from the microphone," Barnette said, adding that the ruling could affect every DUI case in the state. "It's a huge problem. We're getting more DUI cases thrown out in pre-trial motions than are getting to the jury."

Nash also produced a letter from the president of the company that makes the ICOP video system attesting that the video, audio or other data can't be tampered with after it's shot.

Barnette said he will appeal the case so a jury can decide if Scott was intoxicated when he was arrested April 19.

Scott, his campaign manager Rod Shealy, and his law firm did not return messages left for them Friday.

A day after the judge's decision, it remained unclear how the ruling would affect Scott's June 10 primary battle against fellow Republican challenger Mike Rose and whether it also could alter an equally heated sheriff's race.

College of Charleston political science professor Bill Moore said the expected appeal of Newsome's ruling "keeps a cloud over Scott as long as that issue is not resolved prior to the primary. It does remain a high-profile part of that campaign."

Dorchester County GOP chairman Arthur Bryngleson agreed. "There's still a stigma or a question of guilt or innocence that has yet to be decided, although it is more positive for Randy than negative," he said.

Moore said the arrest saga also could affect the hotly contested sheriff's primary, even though Nash isn't on the ballot.

Scott maintained that the arrest was set up to hurt his chances against Rose, and he has said Nash had it in for him because Scott backed L.C. Knight, Nash's opponent when Nash originally was planning to run for re-election. Nash later dropped out of the race after an audit showed missing money at the jail. Scott had pushed for the audit.

After Scott was arrested, he told deputies they would lose their jobs when Knight was elected.

Nash has endorsed Folly Beach Public Safety Director Terry Boatwright in the race against Knight. Nash declined to speculate Friday on how Scott's trial might affect the sheriff's race. "I'm not politically astute," Nash said. "I'll leave that to the political speculators."

Bryngleson said the arrest wouldn't factor into the sheriff's race, but Moore said, "Obviously, the Scott arrest and subsequent events will play into the sheriff's race and could impact how a good number of voters vote."

Rose said while Scott avoided the jury's verdict, he won't avoid the voters.

Rose has focused less on the DUI arrest itself than on the tape recordings that the Dorchester County jail made of Scott talking by phone with his wife immediately after the arrest. In them, Scott seeks help from magistrates, whom he has a hand in appointing, to get out of jail. Scott later apologized.

"This dismissal is absolutely not an exoneration or vindication of Senator Scott. It absolutely does not conclude whether he was driving under the influence," Rose said. "Whether he was or he wasn't, it's clear he was abusing his position as a senator.

"Even handing a Senate card with his driver's license was wrong. If I was arrested, there's only three things I would have said, and that's 'Yes sir,' 'No sir,' and 'There's no excuse sir.' "

District 38 covers much of Dorchester County and a slice of Charleston County near Ladson and Ravenel. Charleston County GOP chairman Lin Bennett said she thinks Scott's actions recorded on tape, perhaps more than the DUI charge itself, could sway voters.

"Voters don't like that. They want elected officials to be regular people. They don't want them to appear like they're above everything," she said.