A nearly two-year-old State Law Enforcement Division investigation into election fraud allegations against four Berkeley County leaders, including state Rep. Samuel Rivers, has been closed because of a lack of evidence, the state Attorney General’s Office said.
“This Office has reviewed your file and at this time do not believe criminal intent could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Assistant Attorney General David Fernandez wrote in a Friday letter to SLED. “I have therefore closed the matter.”
The trio who brought the allegations said they have not been notified the case is closed, but the accused said they feel vindicated.
“The investigation ... ended how I always knew it would — unfounded and case closed,” Rivers, R-Goose Creek, said Monday.
“These individuals went to great lengths to try to deceive the voters of Berkeley and Charleston counties, the media, and even law enforcement," he added. "I would like to thank those in District 15 who saw through their deception, believed in me, continued to support me, and voted for me.”
In June 2016, Elaine Barnette, a Republican candidate for Berkeley County Council District 3, said she was pressured to drop out of the race by Rivers, a longtime friend, and offered a position with the county if she would do so. It was not clear if she was offered a paid position or a seat on a volunteer board or commission, which are appointed by council members.
Barnette, along with Steven Smith, who challenged Rivers in the GOP primary that year for House District 15, and Berkeley resident Don Bailey went to Sheriff Duane Lewis with Barnette’s concerns. Lewis handed the case over to SLED because County Council sets his office’s budget.
County Supervisor Bill Peagler, Deputy County Supervisor Tim Callanan and District 3 County Councilman Ken Gunn were also part of the probe.
“When this first started, I said the claim was false,” Gunn said. “It seems that I told the truth.“
Bailey said he plans to contact state prosecutors with screenshots of texts allegedly sent to Barnette from Rivers.
“It’s not over,” Bailey said. “I have not heard anything from the Attorney General and neither have Elaine or Steven. If it is true that the case is closed, we are very disappointed that the AG’s office has not bothered to notify the complainants, but we intend to see that justice is done. We intend to push this just as far as is humanly possible.”