‘CRACK IN THE SYSTEM’: Richland County sheriff and lawmakers call for changes in criminal justice system

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — The amount of criminal offenders committing more crimes after being released on bond has reached “epidemic levels” according to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and two state senators.

“When is it going to stop? It has got to stop,” said Sheriff Leon Lott, Richland County. “I am pleading with whoever needs to hear this: help us fix this crack in the criminal justice system.”

The issue Sheriff Leon Lott speaks about is a problem he calls ‘catch and release’S. The sheriff believes judges are too lenient with repeat offenders and it results in dangerous criminals in the community.

He also believes some of the laws are too lenient, such as when it comes to unlawful possession of a firearm. 

“Whether you get caught 1 time or 100 times, it’s treated like a first offense. There’s no graduated sentence. You have that for shoplifting and DUI but not for carrying a gun,” Lott said. “That’s some legislation that would help and hold those carrying guns in our community accountable .”

Senator Dick Harpootlian believes not all of the problem comes down to not enough laws. 

“We have the laws on the books,” said Sen. Harpootlian, a Democrat from Richland County. “I think solicitors, law enforcement and judges need to get on the same page.”

Both Harpootlian and fellow Senator Brian Adams also say that it should not be as easy for criminals to bond out of jail and that bonds should be revoked more often. 

“If they commit another crime while they’re out on bond, estreat their bonds,” said Sen. Adams, a Republican from Charleston. “Call them back in and put them in jail.”

One person out on bond that law enforcement recently dealt with was Eugene Ivery. Out on bond for murder, Ivery led Richland County deputies on a pursuit this past weekend. That chase led to two deputies colliding and one having to go to the hospital. 

“Not everyone needs to stay in jail, but those who demonstrate that they’re not going to follow the law are just going to ignore it and do what they want to. Keep their butts in jail,” Lott said.

The Exxon gas station parking lot on Farrow Road is where Richland County deputies attempted to speak to Eugene Ivery before he fled the scene. The fact that Ivery is out on the streets at all is upsetting to Sheriff Lott.

“He is already out on three other bonds for three other previous arrests including murder,” Lott said. “He’s given another bond before my deputy is out of the hospital. He’s back on the streets. Guess what he’s probably doing? The same thing he has done every single time, break the law.”

Richland County deputies found ‘a large amount of marijuana’ when finally speaking to Ivery Saturday afternoon. In addition to charges for the marijuana, Ivery was also charged with driving under suspension, failure to stop for blue lights and reckless driving.

Categories: Local News, Richland