An ex-sheriff was convicted Tuesday of more than 30 drug conspiracy and racketeering charges in what prosecutors said was a wide-ranging corruption case in a small South Carolina county.
A federal jury of eight men and four women deliberated 15 hours over two days before deciding that E.J. Melvin conspired to extort money from drug dealers in exchange for protection from investigation. Prosecutors played hours of taped conversations that they said proved his guilt. Melvin faces life in prison.
One witness told an FBI agent that a long time drug dealer had told him, "If it wasn't for E.J., I wouldn't be doing the things that I do." The same witness told investigators he saw Melvin deal cocaine from his sheriff's office SUV in 2006.
Melvin, who showed no reaction as the verdict was read, ruled Lee County like a kingpin for a decade after being elected sheriff, soliciting bribes from drug dealers, extorting businessmen and fixing tickets for a fee, prosecutors said.
His bond was revoked immediately after the verdict, and he will remain in jail until his sentencing, which has been scheduled for January. He also could face millions of dollars in fines.