Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A judge has accepted a plea deal for former Lexington County Sheriff James Metts in connection with a conspiracy case involving some inmates details at the county jail.
Prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the judge entered into the agreement Tuesday morning at the federal courthouse in downtown Columbia. The deal called for Metts to concede guilt on one of the 10 charges that were brought against him: harboring or concealing an alien. .
In the hearing, Metts was asked if he was pleading of his own free will. After a 30 second pause, he replied that he was.
A pre-sentencing report must now be presented to the judge. The judge will then review that document and set a sentencing date. Sentencing guidelines say Metts could face between five and sixteen months in prison, and a fine up to $250,000.
Metts and his lawyers had originally agreed with prosecutors to plead to this same charge back on December 17th. In that deal, though, Metts would have only received probation, avoiding jail time.
The judge, however, rejected the deal, saying the charges in the case didn't meet the qualifications for offering a deal that included probation only. Last week, prosecutors constructed the current plea agreement that does not specify a penalty.
Back in June, a federal grand jury handed down a 10-count indictment against Metts, who had served as sheriff since 1972. He was accused at that time of taking bribes from friends to interfere with the proper federal identification and processing of certain illegal aliens at the Lexington County Jail.
Two men--46-year-old Danny Frazier and 47-year-old Greg Leon-were named as the people who gave the bribes; both of them have been been indicted by a state grand jury in connection with the case. Frazier is a former Lexington Town Councilman who resigned earlier this year, while Leon owns a group of Mexican restaurants in the Midlands.
The inmates in question were employees of Leon.
Frazier and Leon are still awaiting trial. Metts resigned as sheriff back on December 16th.