S.C. Democrat Candidate for Governor Brokered Plea Deals for Violent Criminals

Vince Sheheen defended wife beaters, cop hitters, child sex abusers

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, (D., S.C.) / AP
• April 28, 2014 5:00 am


South Carolina Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen defended dozens of violent criminals as a trial lawyer, negotiating plea deals down to probation for wife beaters, cop hitters, drug dealers, and child sex offenders.

Sheheen, who describes himself on his campaign site as a former "prosecutor," assisted numerous violent criminals in his home town of Camden, S.C., including Isiah Outten, Jr., who was arrested for "having sexual intercourse with a child."

In November 1999, Outten was indicted for Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor, two counts of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, and one count of Disturbing Schools.

Outten "did engage in sexual battery by having sexual intercourse with a child," in the woods with a girl between 14 and 16 years old, according to the affidavit. Outten also gave the girl Ice House beer and marijuana.

Outten was sentenced to 10 years in jail, but Sheheen negotiated the sentence down to 38 days for time already served and five years probation.

He was then arrested several times during his probation sentence, including while in a hotel room with three young female teenagers, aged 13, 14, and 16. Outten was also arrested for failing to register as a sex offender, attempting to fake a drug test, and for assault and battery in 2005.

A bench warrant was ultimately issued for his arrest for his probation violations in 2006.

Sheheen, now a state senator who is challenging South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R.), has defended his career in the face of political ads criticizing the Democrat for "protecting criminals."

"As a former prosecutor, Vincent has seen what families and victims go through and he has worked with law enforcement to hold criminals accountable and achieve justice," said Andrew Whalen, Sheheen’s campaign manager. "This dishonest ad by Nikki Haley's D.C. friends is a disgusting and desperate attempt to distract from children being abused and dying because of the reckless leadership at Haley's Department of Social Services."

Among Sheheen’s other defendants was James Dixon Jr., a crack cocaine dealer, who "head butted" a police officer while resisting arrest in 2002. Dixon was able to avoid a lengthy jail sentence with Sheheen as his defense attorney.

Dixon was charged with Assault and Battery While Resisting Arrest, Distribution of Crack Cocaine, and Possession with the Intent to Distribute in close proximity to a school.

"James Dixon did head butt Lt. David Dowey of the Kershaw County Sheriff Office after being place under arrest this took place at Wateree Villa in Camden, SC Kershaw County," according to the affidavit.

Sheheen was able to negotiate for lesser charges of Resisting Arrest Non-Violent, and Distribution of Crack Cocaine, and Dixon received a five-and-a-half-year jail sentence.

Alex Buddy Robinson, Jr., a domestic abuser, was represented by Sheheen in 2001 after he was arrested for Burglary in the First Degree, Criminal Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature, and Felony Kidnapping.

Robinson said Sheheen is "no better than me."

He told doctors at William S. Hall Psychiatric Institute that Sheheen is "the man who will save my life, hopefully with God’s help."

"[H]e’s no better than me except he has training and he is a trained lawyer and I’m just a jailhouse lawyer—I have to tell him everything so that he can help me to the fullest of his ability," Robinson said.

Robinson was diagnosed with alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis abuse, and "Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Prominent Borderline Features, Severe," according to his psychiatric evaluation.

The report said Robinson was charged with several DUIs, broke into a courthouse and destroyed records in 1989, that he "smokes as much cannabis as he can on a daily basis," and "he has destroyed cars and clothes when he was mad at others." He had "two or more" prior convictions for burglary, according to the indictment.

Robinson was also described as having an "abnormally intense effect," and a history of violence against his spouses in the past.

"According to his family, the patient, ‘Gets violent with his women,’" the evaluation said.

Of the charges that Sheheen defended him for were that he pulled his girlfriend "out of bed and forced her into his truck against her will."

Robinson was facing a maximum sentence of 25 years. Sheheen negotiated a plea agreement for Robinson to serve three years.

Sheheen also negotiated a 30-month probation sentence for Damon Outten, who was arrested for Assault and Battery with Intent to Kill in 2004 after running over a victim "several times with an all terrain vehicle." Outten violated his probation five months later.

He represented Johnnie Smith, who in 1999 hit a man "in the head with a baseball bat," which resulted in the victim being treated for an "open skull fracture."

Smith was indicted for Assault and Battery With Intent to Kill, but Sheheen brokered a plea agreement that resulted in Smith’s 10-year jail sentence being suspended in favor of five years probation.  He violated his probation in 2002, was arrested, and served nine months in jail.

Another defendant, Laquincy Pollard, only served five years of probation, after he assaulted a man "striking him several times in the face and head, causing the victim to suffer serious injury to his face and eye."

Sheheen also has a history of representing domestic violence abusers who assaulted women.

In 2004, he defended James Salmond, who was indicted on three counts for assaulting his wife, breaking into the home where she was living, and hitting a man in the face with a lamp.

Salmond was arrested for grabbing his wife "by the hair" and biting her "several times leaving lacerations and contusions," according to the affidavit. He had been arrested for a DUI in 2003.

In July 2005, Sheheen resided over plea deals that resulted in a reduced sentence of 30 days in jail and two years probation for the two assault counts.

Sheheen represented David Engram, Jr., who in 2002 tried to run his girlfriend off the road, beat her, and threatened her with a shotgun.

Engram was charged with Criminal Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature after he "hit the victim in the face and then attempted to load a shotgun and threaten to kill her."

He also "rammed his vehicle into the victim’s vehicle several times and the victim was in fear for her and her child’s lives."

Engram was sentenced to three years in jail, but only served one year on probation as a result of Sheheen’s plea agreement.

Two years later, Engram was found to have violated his probation, but his sentence was reduced for "time served," and he was dismissed from supervision.