Freddie Grant (Image: Lexington County Detention Center)
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The man Richland County deputies say kidnapped 15-year-old Gabbiee Swainson has not yet been charged in her disappearance.
A press release sent by deputies back on August 28th stated 52-year-old Freddie Grant had been charged with one count of kidnapping. Grant is being detained at the Lexington County Jail on Federal ammunition charges, where he has been for the past two weeks.
All inmates facing federal charges are housed in the Lexington County jail.
News19's Darci Strickland asked Sheriff Leon Lott Thursday why there are conflicting reports about the charges.
"We have a warrant for his arrest for kidnapping," Lott explained. "He is in the Lexington jail on a federal charge. We have placed a detainer on him which means whenever he is released from there he will come to Richland County and be served with our warrant and will be formally charged. He's not going anywhere. We have a warrant on him for kidnapping."
Over the last 10 days we have been reporting he is charged with kidnapping when in fact, there are only warrants out for his arrest but those have not been filed yet.
Meanwhile, Grant's attorney, Fielding Pringle, says the sheriff is poisoning the jury pool and possibly jeopardizing Grant's ability to have a fair trial, and is requesting a gag order.
The original gag order motion was filed on August 30, with documents supporting the request for that order added days later. A judge will hear arguments Friday morning.
Pringle, who is Richland County's Chief Public Defender, wants the order placed on Lott and Solicitor Dan Johnson.
But this action could give a bad impression.
"I've always had the belief that by asking for the gag order, you intensify the scrutiny the case is receiving," said attorney Jay Bender.
He says gag orders aren't usually requested this early in a case.
"When you have a missing person, and that person is thought to be the victim of foul play, there's a great deal of interest, and that's what has spiked the interest in this case, and that's why the sheriff has gone to the lengths he's gone to to talk about this case and this missing teenager," he said.
Bender says judges have to look at all sides, addressing concerns about the jury pool and freedom of speech of public officials.
"The Supreme Court of the United States and the Supreme Court of South Carolina have both said there are plenty of other tools to a judge to ensure a fair trial and stopping speech on a case of public interest is not the way to do it," said Bender.
He says judges can have a long and intensive jury selection process, they can move or delay a case, and here in South Carolina, Bender says some have even kept a case in its original jurisdiction by bringing in jurors from outside the area.
"If it comes to trial, the question will be of potential jurors, can you decide this case on the basis of what you hear in court, rather than what you might have heard before, and I suspect in Richland County, if the case comes to trial in Richland County, there will be 12 jurors and a number of alternates that would be able to honestly answer that question," said Bender.
The gag order hearing is set for 9 a.m.