The national Republican Governors Association is going after South Carolina Democratic candidate Vincent Sheheen with a new TV ad that criticizes his work as a lawyer.
The ad says, "It's a fact. Trial lawyer Vincent Sheheen made money off criminals. Got a sex offender out of jail time. Defended a child abuser. And represented others charged with violent acts. 'Threatening to kill.' 'Punched in the face.' Sheheen defended violent criminals who abused women and went to work setting them free. So next time Sheheen says he'll protect women from violent criminals, ask him: What about the ones who paid him?
Vincent Sheheen protects criminals. Not us."
Claim: "Got a sex offender out of jail time. Defended a child abuser."
True. Looking at Kershaw County court records, Sheheen did defend sex offender Isiah Outten, who pleaded guilty in January 2000 to criminal sexual conduct with a minor between the ages of 11 and 14. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but that was suspended to 38 days and 5 years probation.
Claim: 'Threatening to kill.' 'Punched in the face.' Sheheen defended violent criminals who abused women and went to work setting them free.
True. Sheheen defended Alex Robinson, who pleaded guilty in October 2001 to criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison. He had pulled his girlfriend out of bed and forced her into his truck.
He also defended David Engram. Court records say he punched his girlfriend in the face and threatened to kill her while he was trying to load a shotgun. He pleaded guilty to criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature in November 2002 and was sentenced to 3 years in prison, but that was suspended to time served and 1 year probation.
He also defended James Salmond, who pleaded guilty in July 2005 to assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. He was sentenced to 5 years prison but that was suspended to 2 years probation and paying $2,000 restitution. That was the result of a plea deal between Sheheen and the local solicitor's office.
But court documents also show that the sentences for Robinson and Engram were based on prosecutors' recommendations and judges' decisions, not plea deals negotiated by Sheheen.
Sheheen's campaign says he's also a former prosecutor who worked with law enforcement to hold criminals accountable and that criminal defense work makes up a very small percentage of his practice. The campaign also points out that these cases happened anywhere from 9 to 14 years ago, and that Sheheen hasn't handled a major criminal case in about five years.