By Paul Gable
A federal tort claims lawsuit, with Horry County and former Horry County Police Department Chief Johnny Morgan included as defendants, is moving forward in Florence federal district court as discovery and depositions are scheduled later this month.
The suit stems from allegations of fraud on the court under color of law by HCPD officers, SLED agents and FBI agents, among others. The suit alleges personnel of these agencies conspired to withhold evidence, commit perjury and commit other unlawful acts in order to influence the outcome of a previous federal lawsuit, thereby violating the civil rights of the plaintiffs.
An extraction, by plaintiff James Spencer, from the initial notice of the federal tort claims suit reads:
“During May of 2000, a criminal conspiracy to deprive me of my civil rights was initiated by several civilians with local law enforcement authorities in Guilford County, N. C. and Horry County, S. C. As part of the criminal conspiracy, on June 6, 2000, a fabricated and baseless NCIC entry was maliciously input with a BOLO falsely listing myself as a felon who was “armed and extremely dangerous.”
“Law enforcement officers in South Carolina in the company of a felon (and former NC private investigator), who had arranged for the NCIC input in North Carolina, entered my mother’s home with no probable cause and without legal basis, confiscated property and assaulted my mother physically.”
Spencer’s mother’s home was entered on June 7, 2000 with the help of the fraudulent warrant obtained with the June 6, 2000 NCIC entry.
The fraudulent warrant was revoked and the NCIC entry ordered to be “removed forthwith” by Judge Sydney Floyd of the 15th S.C. Circuit Court during a hearing on July 10, 2000.
However, Spencer was stopped on August 6, 2000 by officers of the Horry County Police Department and ultimately arrested on the basis of the revoked warrant. These charges were dismissed in a court appearance on April 20, 2001. The presiding judge determined there was no probable cause for the arrest.
On February 21, 2001, Spencer attempted to report the civil rights violations to the FBI office in Columbia, SC at a prearranged meeting with FBI SA Marsh. Marsh took a report with two SLED agents in attendance, even though the inclusion of the SLED agents in the interview was a violation of FBI protocols as established in the FBI-Manual of Investigative and Operational Guidelines (MIOG).
After Spencer was excused from the meeting and escorted out of the building, Marsh wrongfully and in violation of FBI-MIOG requirements turned over to the South Carolina law enforcement officers wrongfully in attendance all the physical evidence Spencer had provided.
This is confirmed by SLED files, which include a property receipt dated February 28, 2001 and signed by Cindy E. Black of SLED.
SLED used this information in an investigation report that was reviewed over four years later by former 15th Circuit Court Deputy Solicitor Fran Humphries. Humphries alleged he found no basis to move forward on a case against Horry County law enforcement officers involved in the incidents.
“The fact that the NCIC entry for “wanted status” in the state of South Carolina was later determined improper …does, in no way, imply that Horry County law enforcement knew or should have known of this imperfection,” reads Humphries conclusion, in part, in a July 26, 2005 letter to Special Agent M.J. Prodan of SLED.
The above statement by Humphries totally ignores the fact that officers on the scene of the stop and arrest spent over 30 minutes in communication with HCPD dispatch attempting to find the warrant in the NCIC, which was revoked several weeks earlier. Even though the warrant could not be found, an arrest was made anyway.
“Further, there is no evidence that this official police action was either directed or effected by private entities for private interests. The involvement of the private investigator employed by interests in North Carolina was simply to provide the location of (Spencer); there is no evidence that the private investigator participated in (Spencer’s) arrest or that he was present at the time of the arrest,” Humphries added in the letter.
The above statement was made even though the private investigator had already admitted in a deposition that he was present. Humphries appears to have done no investigation of the facts prior to issuing his letter.
The above is only a small capsule of the actions that were taken by law enforcement officials involved in the case. More will come as the case moves forward.
Paul Gable is a veteran investigative reporter residing in Horry County, South Carolina and is the current editor of Grand Strand Daily and S.C. Hotline, online magazines featuring all things local and political.