State v. Lewis, Appellate Case No. 2019-001815

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtJUSTICE HEARN
Citation863 S.E.2d 1,434 S.C. 158
Parties The STATE, Respondent, v. William D. LEWIS, Appellant.
Decision Date11 August 2021
Docket NumberOpinion No. 28051,Appellate Case No. 2019-001815

434 S.C. 158
863 S.E.2d 1

The STATE, Respondent,
William D. LEWIS, Appellant.

Appellate Case No. 2019-001815
Opinion No. 28051

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard March 2, 2021
Filed August 11, 2021
Rehearing Denied October 12, 2021

Clarence Rauch Wise, of Greenwood, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Senior Assistant Attorney General Mark Reynolds Farthing, of Columbia; Solicitor Kevin Scott Brackett, of York, all for Respondent.


434 S.C. 162

William Lewis, the former Sheriff of Greenville County, asks us to hold the 1829 statute under which he was convicted for misconduct in office relating to a sexual affair with an employee, void for vagueness. Specifically, he asserts that Section 8-1-80 of the South Carolina Code (2019),1 is unconstitutional because it proscribes "official misconduct, corruption, fraud, or oppression" without defining those terms, and he also claims he was entitled to a directed verdict. We affirm.


Will Lewis was elected sheriff of Greenville County in the 2016 general election after defeating the fourteen-year incumbent, Steve Loftis, in the primary election. Lewis hired Savannah Nabors, age twenty-two, with whom he had previously worked at a local law firm, to be his administrative coordinator during the transition period before being sworn into office. Nabors managed Lewis's scheduling, responded to emails, answered phone calls, and accompanied him to luncheons, meetings, and other business events. Nabors—whose starting salary was $62,000—was hired with no law enforcement experience and without the submission of a résumé or an interview. Nevertheless, she was provided with numerous benefits, including a new 2017 Ford Explorer equipped with a special "police package," an assigned parking place close to Lewis, a cell phone, an iPad, and a computer. Her receipt of a new Ford Explorer was particularly unusual because civilian employees

434 S.C. 163

typically were not provided with vehicles. In addition to her salary being more than double the starting salary of a new deputy, she received other "perks" at Lewis's direction, including participating in the BMW Performance Driving School, repelling and shooting with the SWAT team, and being fitted with a custom bulletproof vest. Basically, Nabors travelled with Lewis nearly everywhere he went, and at one point, Lewis told his deputies that Nabors was "off limits" to them.

In February 2017, Nabors told Lewis she was having marital difficulties and that she and her husband planned to divorce. Later that same evening, Lewis advised Nabors she would be accompanying him to an out-of-town meeting to discuss the budget with county officials. He indicated the meeting would be in either Atlanta or Charlotte, and asked her which she preferred. Ultimately, Nabors accompanied Lewis, another individual from the sheriff's office, and three county officials to Charlotte for budget discussions on March 7-9, 2017. This was the first time the sheriff's office had met outside Greenville to discuss the budget. Lewis picked up Nabors from her house, and the two drove to Charlotte together. Upon arriving, Lewis placed a bottle of liquor in her luggage and told her that he would retrieve it later.2 Once

863 S.E.2d 4

all six individuals arrived in Charlotte, the group had appetizers and drinks at the hotel bar, and then went downtown for more drinks.

While the exact details of the events were disputed at trial, both Lewis and Nabors stated a sexual encounter occurred once the two arrived back at the hotel later that first night. Nabors contended Lewis went to her room to retrieve his liquor bottle so they could have a "nightcap." According to Nabors, Lewis sat next to her on a couch, placed his arm around her, and tried to kiss her. The next thing she remembered was waking up in bed with Lewis on top of her engaging in sexual intercourse. Nabors testified she went to his room afterwards but returned sometime after 7:00 a.m. Conversely, Lewis testified the encounter was consensual, and that it was

434 S.C. 164

Nabors who moved toward him until they kissed. Lewis stated after they had sex, he immediately regretted it and returned to his room alone for the rest of the night.

The following day consisted of morning and afternoon budget meetings. Nabors did not attend the morning session, but joined the group in the afternoon meeting. However, she never took notes even though Lewis testified that was her responsibility and part of the reason for her attending. Later that evening, the group again had dinner and drinks. According to Nabors, Lewis left the group at one point, walked to CVS, and returned with a bottle of lubricant that he displayed to her, asking, "Which room, yours or mine?" Nabors responded, "Neither."

Nabors testified that Lewis again came to her room after texting her at 3:55 a.m. Upon opening the door, Lewis entered, apologized, and asked to stay with her because he did not want to be alone. Nabors testified she allowed Lewis to stay in her bed and at some time during the night, she woke up to Lewis digitally penetrating her. Lewis denied purchasing lubricant or going to her room the second night,3 and he contended nothing sexual happened other than the consensual encounter the first night. The group left Charlotte the next morning and returned to Greenville.

Over the course of the next six weeks, Nabors testified that Lewis acted appropriately at times but on other occasions, he continued to pursue a relationship with her. At one point, Lewis wanted to retrieve a pressure washer he had loaned Nabors, so she arranged for him to pick it up when she would not be home. To give him plenty of time to retrieve the washer, Nabors testified she drove to Chick-Fil-A. Lewis called her, and although he asked her where she was, when she looked in her rearview mirror, she saw him directly behind

434 S.C. 165

her in the drive-through line. As Lewis proceeded to follow Nabors home, she began recording their conversation. During that conversation, Lewis asked Nabors to join him in Reno for a sheriff's conference. However, Lewis stated that while the department would pay for two plane tickets, it would only pay for one hotel room, so Nabors would have to share a room with him. Nabors hedged, explaining it would not look good "on paper" for the two of them to share a room. Eventually, Lewis told Nabors he wanted her to join him in Reno so the two could "roll around in the bed together," sit around, and drink on "company time." After Nabors indicated she preferred their relationship to be nonsexual, Lewis responded that was "fine" but there would have to be changes, including her not accompanying him to meetings and other places for work. Nabors tendered her resignation on April 24, 2017.

In August of 2017, Nabors detailed the Charlotte trip in a personal blog and accused Lewis, although not specifically by name, of

863 S.E.2d 5

improprieties. Thereafter, she filed a civil lawsuit accompanied with several of the previously recorded conversations. Lewis held a press conference in October 2017 and admitted to the affair, but denied allegations of assault, rape, or stalking, maintaining the encounter was consensual.

Following a SLED investigation, Lewis was indicted in April 2018 for common law misconduct in office and obstruction of justice. Lewis filed a motion to quash the indictments, arguing they did not sufficiently place him on notice of the charges against him. In February and March of 2019, Lewis was indicted for statutory misconduct of a public officer and perjury, and superseding indictments for the two prior charges were also issued. Lewis sought to have these indictments quashed as well, contending they were vague and that the terms listed in section 8-1-80 were undefined, leaving a public official to speculate as to the prohibited conduct. The trial court held a hearing in June of 2019 and quashed one count each of the misconduct charges as being repetitive but upheld the remaining five counts. The court did not expressly rule on the constitutionality of section 8-1-80.

The State elected to pursue one count each of common law misconduct in office and misconduct by a public officer under section 8-1-80. At trial, Lewis renewed his objections to the

434 S.C. 166

indictments before the jury was sworn, and after the State rested, he argued both offenses were vague and overly broad and that there was no evidence of fraud. The court denied Lewis's motion. During the charge conference and ensuing jury instructions, Lewis objected to the terms of section 8-1-80 as being vague and overly broad. Ultimately, the jury acquitted Lewis of common law misconduct in office, but found him guilty of statutory misconduct of a public officer. The trial court sentenced Lewis to the maximum one-year imprisonment but granted his motion for an appeal bond approximately two weeks later. Lewis filed his appeal in this Court because of the...

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