HomeFlorence CountyVerdict reached in Florence County slander case; former sheriff found not guilty

Verdict reached in Florence County slander case; former sheriff found not guilty

Florence County, South Carolina – In a court case that caught the interest of the community in Florence County, former lieutenant Kevin “Grant” Summersett sued former sheriff Billy Barnes for slander. Barnes was found not guilty. The jury’s decision on Friday morning brings an end to a case that has sparked conversations about political affiliations, ethics at work, and how these kinds of disagreements can affect people’s jobs and mental health.

Kevin “Grant” Summersett has been part of the department for 14 years

Kevin “Grant” Summersett worked for the Florence County Sheriff’s Office for 14 years before he was fired in June 2020. This was the end of his job. According to the case that Summersett’s lawyer, Patrick J. McLaughlin of Wukela Law Firm, filed in October 2020, the firing happened even though Summersett’s personal file didn’t show any previous bad administrative or disciplinary actions. The fact that Barnes was fired just one day after the primary for Florence County Sheriff raised questions, which led to the lawsuit accusing him of slander and intentionally causing him emotional pain.

In his lawsuit, Summersett said that he was fired because he didn’t support Chief Deputy Glen Kirby in the Florence County Sheriff Republican primary. This wasn’t just a question of reorganizing within the department. The lawsuit talked about the personal and professional harms Summersett experienced after being fired, such as damage to his image, emotional distress, and financial losses that included pension, health insurance benefits, and future wages.

Despite these allegations, the judges decided that Barnes had not slandered Summersett or caused him intentional emotional distress. Barnes and his lawyers are happy with the result. Barnes’s lawyer, Mark Buyck, stressed that the case was fairly tried in front of a local jury. Barnes was the acting Sheriff of Florence County and has been a police officer for 50 years. He was happy with the decision and reaffirmed his dedication to the community and his service record.

Former Florence County Sherriff Office lieutenant Kevin Summersett sued former sheriff Billy Barnes for slander. Barnes was found not guilty.

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For the community of Florence County, the verdict brings closure to a case that has lingered in the public eye, allowing both parties to move forward.

McLaughlin, Summersett’s attorney, released the following statement, according to WPDE:

Lt. Summersett brought this lawsuit to take it to trial and expose a state-wide problem: deputy sheriffs being pressured over ‘loyalty’ during contested sheriff elections. Despite admissions by all the witnesses in this case that this unsavory practice occurs routinely and is deplorable, deputy sheriffs will continue to be pressured during elections as long as those who engage in such conduct can just defend their actions by saying deputies ‘serve at the pleasure of the Sheriff.’

Read also: S.C. man sentenced to 106 months in federal prison for having cocaine and crack with plans to sell them

Grant’s goal in taking his case to trial was to make the public aware of this problem and reveal it in such a way that would hopefully make those who engage in this conduct less likely to do so. While we are disappointed in the result, we hope that Grant’s willingness to fight against such conduct will bring awareness to the unwarranted and unnecessary pressures deputy sheriffs are far too often subjected to in South Carolina over politics.

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