Palmetto Behavioral Health System center has new woes

Walter Hiott

A prostitution sting, a gas station mug shot magazine, and a sheriff deputy's fall from grace are wrapped up in an odd case that has created fresh headaches for an embattled Lowcountry treatment provider.

The case started with the Sept. 15 arrest of Dr. Walter Hiott, a psychiatrist working with troubled children and adolescents at Palmetto Behavioral Health System, which has drawn attention for multiple escapes and other problems over the past year.

Hiott, 47, was caught up in a prostitution sting run by the Charleston County Sheriff's Office, according to Maj. Jim Brady. Hiott allegedly tried to pay an escort for sex at a West Ashley motel only to find out the woman was a police informant, Brady said.

Vice investigators moved in and arrested Hiott, charging him with soliciting for prostitution, a misdemeanor. He was released that same day on a personal recognizance bond, court records show.

Palmetto Behavioral Health reportedly learned of Hiott's arrest after a co-worker spotted his mug shot in a magazine sold in area gas stations.

Palmetto officials said the company "terminated" its relationship with Hiott after meeting with him about the allegations.

Hiott declined to comment. But his attorney, Mark Peper, said Hiott voluntarily resigned his position due to a family emergency unrelated to his arrest.

The case against Hiott, however, ended up being dismissed as a result of another twist of fate, authorities said.

The same day Hiott went to court, Dec. 12, the deputy who arrested him was taken into custody on theft charges in an unrelated case. Detective Troy Capps was accused of pocketing cash he found while conducting search warrants. Capps resigned while under investigation, leaving him unavailable to testify against Hiott, authorities said.

Peper said other issues also played a role in the dismissal, though he declined to elaborate. He said a county prosecutor did not oppose his motion to toss out the case during the Dec. 12 hearing.

Hiott, who had no previous arrest record in South Carolina, joined Palmetto Behavioral Health in 2006 after spending 12 years on the faculty of the Medical University of South Carolina. He specializes in working with children and adolescents, treating them for addiction, compulsion and mood disorders, among other conditions. He had served as medical director of youth services for Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Hospital, according to Palmetto.

When asked about Hiott this week, Palmetto Behavioral Health issued a statement saying it had terminated its relationship with "said employee" due to the seriousness of the allegations and revoked his privileges at Palmetto's residential treatment centers and health care facilities in Summerville, North Charleston and Florence.

"Palmetto Behavioral Health undertook these decisive measures after meeting with the employee in question and confirming that charges had been alleged and a police report had been filed," the statement read. "The employees and medical staff at Palmetto Behavioral Health are held to the highest professional standards and each potential hire is subject to health screenings and vigorous background checks."

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or on Twitter at @glennsmith5.