COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP, WLTX) - South Carolina's longest-serving sheriff is set to go to trial early next year on bribery and conspiracy charges.
Chief U.S. District Judge Terry Wooten says suspended Lexington County Sheriff James Metts' trial will begin Jan. 20. Wooten said Wednesday that he expects the trial to last two weeks.
Prosecutors say Metts allowed friends to buy favors, accepting cash in return for agreeing to assist people who were in the country illegally and who were being detained.
Metts has pleaded not guilty to 10 charges including conspiracy, racketeering and wire fraud. Previous Coverage: Sheriff Metts Indicted
Metts made his first public comments since his indictment following the hearing.
"I'm confident that as we go forward, we're gonna win this case," Metts said. "I haven't done anything wrong, I said that in the very beginning. I have competent attorneys who I am trusting and I'm ready to get this trial started. I wish it could have started in December or sooner, but because of the matters that came forth today it'll be in January and we're prepared to go to trial at any point in time. I want to exercise my rights under the constitution as I have provided for other people for 48 years. This trial is nothing more than an attempt to discredit me and I'm going to prove through our attorneys that we are innocent, as I've always been and that justice, I believe, will prevail."
Metts is free on $100,000 bond and has been suspended from the office he has held since 1972. He is the eighth sheriff in South Carolina to be charged or investigated in the last four years.