Lucas C. Marchant, petition candidate for the office of the 13th Circuit Solicitor, has released an official statement in response to the recent media coverage surrounding his opponent, Solicitor Walt Wilkins, and a missing gun taken from the evidence locker.
“Solicitor Wilkins stated he was going to set the record straight, but he’s ignoring the facts and the law.
Yesterday, I received the report from the Greenville Police concerning the theft of the gun from Solicitor Wilkins’ car and a reply from the Public Affairs Manager with the Greenville Police Department confirming that they have no reports of Wilkins ever receiving or reporting threats against him or his family. A similar request has been sent to the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.
Here are the facts:
1) A gun was stolen from its true owner Lamar Cureton on 8/22/2013. 2) This same gun was recovered by the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office on
8/23/2013. 3) A Civil Forfeiture Order was signed by the Solicitor’s Office on 8/29/2013. 4) The gun was signed out to Solicitor Walt Wilkins from the Sheriff’s Evidence
Room on 9/18/2013. 5) The gun was stolen from Wilkins’ unlocked car on 10/24/2013.
And here is the law:
An excerpt from a June 3, 2013 Attorney General Opinion concerning disposition of weapons seized by law enforcement officers’ states:
As for the disposition of a handgun confiscated for a violation of§ 16-23-20, § 16-23-50(8) goes further than those provisions in Shipman and Moore to provide that the ‘’weapon must not be disposed of in any manner until the results of any legal proceeding in which it may be involved are finally determined.” (Emphasis added). In light of the broad language used in this provision, we are unable to advise as to any and all legal proceedings which may involve a weapon seized pursuant to§ 16-23-50(8). However, in situations where the individual convicted is the owner of the confiscated handgun, we believe this language should be interpreted to mean disposition must wait until after the defendant has, at the very least, exhausted his right to an appeal or allowed the time period in which an appeal may be filed to expire. In the event a separate forfeiture proceeding is held to address a third party’s claim of an interest in the confiscated handgun, we believe disposition must wait until any such claim is ultimately resolved. Thus, we suggest you notify and consult your circuit solicitor before disposing of any handgun pursuant to § 16-23-50(8) to ensure that all legal proceedings in which it may be involved have been finally determined.
There is no case or statute or opinion that supports Wilkins’ “explanation” of his possession of the gun he lost. The defendant in the pending case could not have legally forfeited a weapon he did not own. The Solicitor’s Office is required to check for third party ownership before disposing of property, something which was either done and ignored, or not done at all. Wilkins is admitting ignorance of the law as your chief prosecutor. Without question he should have known this gun was involved in an active case and it was NOT effectively forfeited by the statute he cites. At best he’s relying on the Sheriff for knowledge of the law, something he is charged with knowing and enforcing. At worst he’s using the evidence locker as his personal toy chest and showing unfamiliarity of the law he is elected to uphold.
Wilkins clearly doesn’t know the law or is trying to mislead citizens by misstating the law to the public in order to excuse his poor judgment. For him to say he didn’t know this case was pending is ludicrous and if he didn’t check to see what the status of what this case was, he is unfit to serve as chief prosecutor. He has admitted signing the gun out himself from evidence. It’s time for him to take responsibility for his actions and apologize for the mistake made. Wilkins says, “he isn’t going to apologize”. He doesn’t care what the citizens of Greenville and Pickens Counties think. He is supposed to hold criminals accountable for their actions, but who is holding him accountable if he won’t admit his mistakes?
I’ve been a responsible gun owner since the first year I worked in the Solicitors Office in 2004. I bought a handgun for protection out of my own salary which at that time was a fraction of what Wilkins makes each year. I always keep my firearms locked or properly secured to keep my children and yours safe – something every responsible gun owner does. There is no reason Wilkins could not have purchased a firearm himself, and there is certainly no excuse for the Solicitor removing evidence in a pending case for his personal use.
This gun belonged to an innocent third-party victim who had rights. When is Wilkins going to apologize to him? When will we see any evidence of these supposed threats against Wilkins that he is now using as an excuse to justify taking the gun?
This is only one example of the gross mismanagement of the Solicitors Office under Wilkins. We know he farms out work to his buddies at a high dollar private firm. We know from a review of his calendar that he works less than 5 hours per week and tries less than 1 case per year. We know he lets people sit in jail for 2 years and then dismisses their case and takes no responsibility for it. This is just what we know about – what else is going on that we don’t know about?
We know enough to be sure that Wilkins is the wrong choice for Solicitor. Hold him accountable since he won’t hold himself accountable. Vote for me, Lucas Marchant this Tuesday, November 6th.”