Sex offender again charged

Hanf

"Something has got to change in our state or we are going to remain the most violent state in the nation, per capita," said North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt on Friday. "There has got to be greater consequences."

Daniel Hanf, who drew notoriety in 2006 after cutting off his electronic leg monitor and eluding police for more than a week, is charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct by North Charleston police.

Hanf, 25, had been discharged from the state prison system April 15 and is accused of attacking a sleeping acquaintance shortly afterward.

Though he'd been sentenced to three years in prison, Hanf was released after about four months, partially because of the time he'd already served in the county lockup.

"What is going on here?" Zumalt said. "How is this happening?"

Zumalt said law enforcement did its job by investigating the earlier rapes, arresting Hanf and turning him over to the court system for prosecution. Without pointing the finger, Zumalt said the system broke down after that, allowing Hanf to land back on the streets to allegedly prey on a third victim.

Hanf was charged last week with raping a 17-year-old girl after she passed out while intoxicated inside her brother's North Charleston home, a police arrest affidavit says. The teen told police she had known Hanf for about two weeks and he would supply her and her friends with alcohol. On April 26, she met him at a liquor store and they drove to her brother's Crossroad's Drive apartment, police said.

The teen got drunk on tequila while Hanf quietly sat back and watched her, drinking little, if any, alcohol himself, an affidavit stated. Hanf reportedly snuck into her bedroom after she passed out, undressed her and had sex with her while she slept, police said. The girl's brother walked in on the act and forced Hanf from the room, police said. The girl woke up naked but had no recollection of the attack until witnesses told her what had occurred, police said.

The new charge mirrors some of the allegations that sent Hanf to prison originally, including a 2006 incident in which he reportedly raped an acquaintance while she slept in a Mount Pleasant apartment. At the time, Hanf was awaiting trial for a Folly Beach sexual assault charge that involved a 16-year-old girl he'd also known beforehand.

When the two cases went to a Charleston County courtroom, however, both were pleaded down to lesser charges. In a deal with 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, Hanf pleaded to assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature in the Folly Beach incident.

In the Mount Pleasant case, he entered an Alford plea to the same form of assault charge. An Alford plea allows a defendant to claim innocence but to concede there is sufficient evidence that he likely would be convicted at trial.

Circuit Judge Roger Young accepted the negotiated plea and sentenced Hanf to 10 years in prison, suspended to three years of actual incarceration time, followed by three years of probation. Hanf also had to register as a sexual offender.

At the time of the plea, Wilson supported the lesser charges by saying both victims backed the deal after realizing the difficulty of proving the assault cases at trial. On Friday, Wilson reiterated the appropriateness of the December plea based on the case evidence.

The more dominant issue, she said, is an unpredictable prison system where victims have no certainty as to the length of their attacker's sentence. Wilson faces a Republican primary challenge next month from opponent Blair Jennings.

That Hanf was released early from the Department of Corrections is hardly a rarity. Defendants often get credit for the time they spend in jail awaiting their day in court. As part of Hanf's sentencing, Judge Young gave him credit for the estimated 18 months he'd spent in the Charleston County Detention Center awaiting trial.

In total, Hanf likely served under two years of the three-year term, and also received early release credit for behaving while he was behind bars and working a prison job.

Judge Young declined comment Friday. Judges in South Carolina are prohibited from making public comments that could interfere in the fairness of a court proceeding.

In order to keep Hanf behind bars longer, the Attorney General's Office could have sought to continue his incarceration as a sexually violent predator. However, because he pleaded assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, it would not have immediately triggered a review, said Mark Plowden, press officer for the Attorney General's office.

In the summer of 2006, Hanf became the subject of a local manhunt after he cut off his electronic leg bracelet while free on bond from the Folly Beach attack charge. His movements also were supposed to be confined at the time that the Mount Pleasant incident occurred inside a friend's apartment. He eluded police for more than a week before turning himself in.

The case triggered a clamp down on the use of satellite monitoring for defendants on bond.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at skropf@postandcourier.com or 937-5551. Reach Glenn Smith at gsmith@postandcourier.com or 937-5556.