ORANGEBURG — Arnold Pastor, the former Dorchester County jail chief accused of siphoning off $363,000 from a jail account, will spend 18 months on the other side of the bars.
He took one final look at his wife Wednesday and walked out of the courtroom between two deputies.
Circuit Judge James Williams could have given him 10 years.
Pastor's attorney, Robby Robbins, argued that Pastor has been cooperating with the county to make things right and is working on paying back the rest.
"I just don't think, in this particular situation, incarcerating him is going to do anything to help the county," Robbins said.
Williams said he was impressed with Pastor's efforts but couldn't simply let him off.
"This is a pretty serious matter," Williams said. "It's a lot of money. ... For me to let you walk out of here today ... would not send a good message to the people of Dorchester County."
Pastor got in trouble after County Council asked for an audit of the Sheriff's Office spending. The audit didn't find any problems with then-Sheriff Ray Nash, other than not keeping a close enough eye on Pastor, who had unfettered access to the jail fund. Nash chose not to run for re-election after the audit.
The forensic auditor and an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division discovered that $363,000 had been diverted between 2005 and 2007 from a jail fund into a personal account Pastor set up. The money 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.
Robbins told the judge that Pastor didn't spend the money on anything extravagant and that his wife, Tammy, had medical problems. Pastor had been working for the Sheriff's Office since 1996 and was making less than $40,000 a year when he took the money, Robbins said. Pastor also was a firearms instructor, SWAT team member and dive team leader.
Pastor acknowledged taking the money.
"I'm just so sorry for what I've done," he told the judge. "It's been really hard and I'm sorry."
Pastor has been trying to pay back the money, Robbins told the judge. He signed over his house and 8 acres of land in St. George to Dorchester County. A recent appraisal shows the equity to be about $150,000, Robbins said.
Pastor also gave the county a trailer that Robbins said might be worth $15,000. Pastor also signed an agreement to give the county anything of value for the next 10 years to help pay back what he took, as well as the extra cost of the audit.
Tammy Pastor will keep a small house in Hanahan that's in her name and valued at about $60,000, Robbins said. The Pastors have been married since 1986 and have a daughter in college.
Robbins also asked Williams to consider the danger of putting a former law enforcement officer in prison.
"As a former jailer, I would consider him a marked man in our state prison system," Robbins told the judge.
Sometimes former law enforcement officers who end up in prison are jailed separately to protect them, S.C. Department of Corrections Communications Director Josh Gelinas said after the court hearing. He said he couldn't say what would happen to Pastor until his situation is evaluated.
After the hearing, Robbins said he thought the sentence was "fair."
"That's about as good as we could expect," he said.
Dale Scott, a prosecutor with the S.C. Attorney General's Office, summed up the case against Pastor but did not recommend a sentence.
"We just hope this sends a message this is something we take very seriously any time somebody takes public funds," he said after Pastor was led away.