Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis admitted to having an extramarital affair but staunchly denied sexual harassment and stalking allegations against him in a press conference Thursday, three days after a former employee filed a lawsuit against him.
"I did have a consensual encounter earlier this year," Lewis said, "and for that, deeply sorry doesn't cover it."
Savannah Nabors, who was employed as an administrative coordinator for the Sheriff's Office before resigning in May, said in a lawsuit that Lewis sexually assaulted her on an overnight business trip earlier this year.
Nabors alleges in the lawsuit that she was forced to leave her job because she "refused to tolerate sexual advances by the sheriff."
Lewis said the allegations have "zero validity."
"The allegations of rape and stalking, harassment, that's completely, 100 percent false," Lewis said.
Kyle White, one of Nabors' attorneys, said he couldn't comment beyond what has already been alleged in the lawsuit. Attorney Druanne White, also one of Nabors' lawyers, previously said Nabors would not speak publicly about the lawsuit or allegations contained in it.
"We have respect for and faith in the civil litigation process and stand by the allegations in the complaint," Kyle White said in a statement following Thursday's news conference.
Lewis, who did not take questions during the press conference, also publicly apologized to his wife and family and asked for privacy as the State Law Enforcement Division continued its investigation into the allegations. No criminal charges have been filed against Lewis.
"The encounter that I had was tremendously and deeply regrettable, one that is a moral failure," he said.
"Most importantly to me, I took a vow to my wife and children, to be a loving husband and also a father that protects my children," Lewis said. "It pains me to tell you that I in fact broke that vow to my wife and family."
Lewis also apologized to the county, its citizens and deputies of the Sheriff's Office. He asked supporters to have faith in him and his officers.
“I can only ask again for the forgiveness and for the belief of the people in the county that I may continue to perform my duties as I’ve been elected to do,” Lewis said.
Paul Guy, a former deputy who ran against Lewis in the November general election, questioned Lewis' claims and called for his resignation.
"Principles and character matters," Guy said. "He has lost respect of deputies and former deputies."
Guy appeared with a coalition of 15 community leaders last month calling for Lewis to resign amid the SLED investigation.
“I’m going to press on," Lewis said. "And I’m going to continue to stay where I am and I will not in any way let this effect the safety of… this community.”
Lewis said he looked forward to the litigation process coming to a close.
"You guys will have an opportunity to see exactly what’s happened, what’s transpired and where the falsehoods are,” he said.