The Federal case against accused Charleston shooter, Dylann Roof, may have hit a road block this week. A Federal Judge has ruled that the indictment of Roof lacks a key element.

According the The Post and Courier, “U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ordered prosecutors to file a “bill of particulars,” a detailed explanation of 12 of the 33 charges against Roof in the June 2015 attack that killed nine black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church.”

Judge Gergel has stated that the indictment in its current state doesn’t thoroughly explain a key element of the crimes. Further explanation is needed regarding the religious rights charges Roof faces. It is these charges that make him eligible for the death penalty. According the The Post and Courier, “His defense attorneys said the indictment didn’t explain how the crimes were carried through the use of “interstate commerce,” a necessary component allowing the federal authorities to prosecute Roof. The indictment simply stated that Roof’s actions “were in and affected intestate commerce.””

The judge clearly feels the defense needs further explanation in order to prepare, and that the current indictment is lacking.

In addition to the religious rights charges, Roof has also been indicted on hate crimes and the use of a firearm during a violent crime.

South Carolina continues to rank poorly in driver safety. While Northern and Midwestern states typically are the most dangerous for drunken driving, the Palmetto state is now ranking in the top 10.

According to, “South Carolina’s worst ranking was the fatality rank category where it landed at No. 3 worst. Statistics show 50 percent of fatal accidents in SC involve alcohol in some way.”

This fact may be a surprise to some since South Carolina actually has some of the toughest DUI penalties. Even first time offenders face extremely high fines, jail time, license suspensions, mandatory alcohol education programs and interlock devices.

According to a study published by USA Today, North Dakota was the highest ranking state for fatalities and DUI arrests in 2015. Montana came in at number two.

Given the fact that 30% of Citadel cadets go into the military, you may be surprised to hear that the Charleston based military school used to be the only campus around that didn’t allow guns to be kept in the cars of permit carrying students. That’s all about to change as new gun regulations take place for these cadets.

The change is raising red flags, even amongst cadets. It’s no secret that young freshman at the Citadel go through a harrowing plebe year. Even though freshman are not allowed to have cars on campus, this law does potentially introduce guns into a tense environment.

This concern was brought to Gov. Nikki Haley by cadet Austin Lee. According to The Post and Courier, “Officials at The Citadel say when Lee initially brought this up, they also thought about the potential for lethal hazing … and any number of other potentially ugly scenarios.”

Like most schools which already allow this scenario, the Citadel will expel any student who removes their gun from the car. But this change still has the potential to cause major problems. The Post and Courier states “There has been an uptick in car break-ins in the neighborhoods around campus, and when word gets out that a lot of those cars parked outside of Johnson-Hagood might have guns in them, well, a lot of cadets are probably going to be shelling out money to fix jimmied locks.”

Joey Meek, friend of accused Emanuel AME Church shooter, Dylann Roof, will be having his day in court sooner rather than later.

Meek’s trial has been set for 9:00 a.m. on June 27, 2016. Meek has been accused of knowing about Roof’s plans, and doing nothing to prevent the attack.

According to the Post and Courier, “Meek, 21, faces up to eight years in prison if convicted of misprision of a felony and lying to federal authorities.”

The FBI believes Meek knew details of Roof’s plan early on, and also lied to authorities after the crime had been carried out. The Post and Courier states, “Meek and his family members have said that Roof spoke of carrying out mass violence in Charleston and starting a race war.”

The trial for Dylann Roof is set to begin in July. The prosecutor in Meek’s case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson, said Meek’s trial could last anywhere from 5-10 days. Jury selection will begin on May 3.

As we’ve written before, the state of South Carolina is currently at the top of the list of deadliest states for women at the hands of men. Now that this sad fact is being more widely reported, lawmakers have recently attempted to create new laws to protect our residents from domestic abuse. Just last year we saw new domestic violence reforms that increase penalties for both first-time abusers and frequent offenders. Now, it appears taking a closer look at these laws can uncover some unintended discrimination.

The South Carolina Supreme Court is now saying that a particular domestic violence law discriminates toward same-sex couples. According to the Post and Courier, “The chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court told lawyers from the state Attorney General’s Office Wednesday that South Carolina’s domestic violence statute as applied to same-sex couples is unconstitutional, but the justices still struggled to determine the proper way to make the law workable.”

The hearing was requested in August by Attorneys Bakari Sellers and Alexandra Benevento. Their anonymous client was denied an order of protection in Richland County. According to The Post and Courier, she was hit and choked by her female ex-fiance.

The Post and Courier states, “Justices spent the bulk of the 30-minute hearing trying to determine the best way to afford protections to same-sex victims of domestic violence — but without being accused by the General Assembly of legislating from the bench.”

The attorneys involved in the case would like to see a new interpretation of the law rather than have it completely stricken. According to the Post and Courier, “Sellers and Smith said there is precedent that would allow the court to interpret “and” in the statute as “or.” Were they to do that, “male and female who are cohabiting or formerly cohabited” would be interpreted as “male or female,” which the attorneys said has been done in previous rulings made by the state Supreme Court.”

While it seems clear that all couples, regardless of gender, deserve protection from domestic violence, Chief Justice Pleicones seems to feel he is in a no win situation. He stated that striking the law will leave too many unprotected, but rewriting the law will draw criticism from the General Assembly.

Gov. Nikki Haley’s recent discovery that police officers are in charge of prosecuting domestic violence cases is leading to some big changes in our state. She is now proposing that we spend $19 million to hire 144 prosecutors to take over this large responsibility.

According to The Post and Courier, “South Carolina is one of three states in the country where police officers — not lawyers — prosecute domestic violence crimes in the courtroom.”

Haley is not alone in this proposition. She was joined during this statement by 9th Circuit Solicitor, Scarlett Wilson.

Wilson was quoted as saying, “I was mortified when I learned that law enforcement (officers) were the ones that were prosecuting these cases…Law enforcement does a great job, but they have enough on their plate…They shouldn’t have to go and try to play lawyer. They are not a substitute for someone who is a trained prosecutor.”

Our state has a bleak history when it comes to domestic violence. We have long topped the lists of deadliest states for women at the hands of men. Gov. Haley hopes this change will turn things around in South Carolina.

The Post and Courier quoted Haley as saying “You have to fix it from the ground up, there has to be a culture change…If we really are going to have the backs of the people who have to deal with domestic violence then we need to have the culture in the way we communicate it. These people are not victims. They are survivors.”

The shift from officers to prosecutors is not the only change Haley is proposing. She is also rolling out an HR policy which will affect sever state agencies. This policy will help companies understand how they can assist employees or coworkers who may be experiencing domestic violence.

Haley stated “We’re going to make sure that we have the resources available and we’re going to have a safety plan. If we find out that there’s someone that is a survivor that is in trouble, we’re going to make sure that we’re walking them to their car. We’re going to make sure that if we have to change their work times, we’re going to change them. We’re going to do what it takes to empower the survivor to get control of their situation.”

Racism is again making headlines in the low country this week after at least eight Citadel cadets were suspended. Social media photos revealed the students wearing Ku Klux Klan type hoods.

According to The Post and Courier, “The school’s president, retired Lt. Gen. John Rosa, called the images “offensive and disturbing.” It shows an upper-class cadet in front of seven cadets wearing all-white clothing and with pillowcases over their heads. Eyeholes had been cut out and one corner of the pillowcases were drawn up to form a point.”

Charleston has made national headlines twice in the past year for the shooting of Walter Scott by a police officer, and of course, the shooting at Emanuel AME Church. Understandably, the newest incident at the Citadel is drawing criticism from the community.

The Post and Courier quoted State Rep. Wendell Gilliard as saying ““This heinous act was committed in close proximity to Mother Emanuel AME Church, and with the recent Walter Scott shooting, this adds insult to injury…This action by the cadets warrants nothing short of an expulsion for all those who are found to be involved in this intolerable act of hate.”

Suspension proceedings began immediately for the accused cadets, and the College is currently investigating further. While the accused claim they were participating in a skit dressed as ghosts, the photos suggest otherwise.

The Citadel has faced this type of situation many times in the past. The Post and Courier states that in March of 2013, “former Citadel cadet Jordyn Jackson told The Post and Courier that she was a victim of racial harassment at the military college almost from the moment she walked through its doors the previous fall. She was the target of racial epithets and racist notes. She quit the school rather than endure more insults.”

If Federal prosecutors get their way, Joey Meek will have his day in court in Charleston rather than Columbia. The friend of AME Emanuel shooter, Dylann Roof, is set to stand trial soon for withholding information from police. He has maintained a not guilty plea.

While Meek’s attorneys have already filed a motion opposing this move, prosecutors maintain their request is based upon convenience for the victims.

According to, the motion states, “Among the factors to be considered, the most significant weight should be placed on the rights and convenience of the victims…As this Court is aware, there are a multitude of victims in Charleston area, who have shown a desire to attend all Court hearings. Despite the challenges of travel, many of those victims have traveled to Columbia for hearings in the matter. Moreover, given their interest in this prosecution and the likely non-applicability of any sequestration order, it is likely that many of the victims would attend the trial in its entirety.”

Meek has expressed concern that he may not get a fair trial in Charleston, and also worries that his Columbia based family will not be able to attend.

Witnesses for this case reside both in Charleston and Columbia, however Columbia based witnesses will only need to attend small portions of the trial, according to the prosecutors.

Concern for the families and witnesses may very well be enough to convince the court to move this trial to Charleston.

The expungement process in South Carolina is something lawmakers have been conflicted over for some time. In August 2014, an expungement study committee met in Columbia to discuss streamlining or expanding the current process. The committee, made up of senators and representatives, heard over 20 speakers. Most argued that the current expungement law prohibit people from finding jobs due to minor prior arrests.
At the time, The Post and Courier quoted Sue Berkowitz, director of the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, as saying, “It makes it really impossible for someone to go back into society…We recognize what a barrier having this record is to getting back into society and being able to get a job.”

However, strong arguments were presented by the opposition as well. Laura Hudson, executive director of the South Carolina Crime Victims’ Council, told the Post and Courier, “more than 70 percent of offenders break the law again…I’m very annoyed that the victims are not being considered; that it’s all about some varmint…I can’t understand why we have all of this breath being wasted on people who have proven they will not follow the law.”

Not much progress has been made over a year later. The committee heard many recommendations this October, not long before the deadline of December 31 arrives. According the the Post and Courier, “Efforts to keep some offenders from being permanently marked with a criminal record were dismissed Monday as too cautious and lacking in innovative ideas. Rep. Todd Rutherford said a task force’s recommendations for changes to the state’s expungement laws “essentially do nothing” and had already been suggested to lawmakers before.”

While both sides have raised valid points, there is one thing everyone seems to agree on. No one feels that a small misdemeanor charge should hinder someones ability to find a job. Republican Sen. Paul Thurmond stated to the Post and Courier, “There are certainly scenarios in which simply because you utilized a previous expungement, all of a sudden you find yourself with a minor misdemeanor charge that you have no ability to address…All options should be on the table to delineate between someone that clearly needs to have it on their record and someone who doesn’t need to have it on their record.”

In April of this year, Charleston made national news when North Charleston Police Officer, Michael Slager, shot and killed Walter Scott, who was unarmed and running from Slager at the time of the shooting. A bystander famously caught the indecent on video using his cell phone camera.

Today, Scott’s family was awarded $6.5 million by city officials. The family didn’t file a lawsuit in the wake of the shooting, instead they entered into negotiations with the City of North Charleston hoping to reach a settlement. According to the Huffington Post, “The North Charleston City Council approved the settlement by a 10-0 vote, and members of Walter Scott’s family were on hand when it was announced…Anthony Scott said the family plans to donate some of the money from the settlement to disaster relief for victims of the recent floods in South Carolina.”

Charlestonians won’t see this story fading from the headlines anytime soon. Slager is still behind bars and facing criminal charges. The Huffington Post states, “Slager was indicted on a murder charge in June and a judge refused to set bond last month, saying his release would “”constitute an unreasonable danger to the community.””

The national attention prompted a great deal of change in the North Charleston Police department. Since the April shooting, body cameras are now being used. According to the Huffington Post, Mayor Keith Summey also said, “the police department will be working with a division of the Department of Justice that helps local communities resolve issues involving race, color, national origin or gender.”

Today’s settlement is the largest our state has seen for this type of case.