Attorney says arrest was political; sheriff says status no shield

Commissioner Giles "Buddy" Byrd has been cleared of larceny charges, according to the district attorney's office.
Commissioner Giles "Buddy" Byrd has been cleared of larceny charges, according to the district attorney's office.

The attorney for Commissioner Giles “Buddy” Byrd said Friday that Byrd’s arrest is politically motivated, and the storage shed he is charged with stealing was the center of a misunderstanding.

Byrd was arrested Friday morning on charges of larceny and possession of stolen goods. He was released on a $25,000 unsecured bond. His address on court records is listed as 1941 Giles Byrd Rd., Hallsboro.

Warrants show that Byrd is alleged to have removed a cedar-stained 10 by 16 foot storage building, valued at $6,900, from a lot at the Last Chance Campground. The building is listed as being owned by Maury Reaves of Honey Hill Road, Hallsboro. Byrd, who has a financial interest in the campground, allegedly took the building to a property he owns at Lake Waccamaw. After the building was moved, witnesses said additions were made to the shed. The shed was later returned to the lot at Last Chance. The campground is located on Dupree Landing Road. 

Mike Willis of Whiteville, who is representing Byrd, said the incident involving the storage building was a civil matter.

“Nothing was stolen from Mr. Reaves,” Willis said. “I believe that Mr. Reaves has regained possession of the building.”

Reaves left the building on the real property belonging to Last Chance Campground for several months after vacating his rental space there while owing back rent, Willis said.  

“The building was moved away and stored in plain view in order that the space could be rented to someone else,” Willis said. “There was never any intent on Mr. Byrd’s or anyone else’s part to permanently deprive Mr. Reaves of his building.  It was never secreted nor offered for sale to anyone.”

Willis said Reaves never contacted Byrd about the building, and has not paid the back rent owed to Last Chance Campground.  

“This is clearly a civil dispute involving landlord/tenant law, and it should have been handled as such had either party chosen to pursue it,” Willis said.

“I am convinced that the Sheriff (Jody Greene) is behind this, and it is all about embarrassing Mr. Byrd and trying to influence his bid for re-election to the county commission,” Willis said.  “…I expect Mr. Byrd to be fully vindicated in court, and I will do my best to have this matter heard at the earliest possible date.”

Willis said Byrd does not intend to step aside from his position on the board of county commissioners.

Greene said Monday that the accusations of political retribution are false.

“This is absolutely not a witch hunt,” Greene said. “It does not matter who you are, politician or not. If you break the law, I will do my sworn duty.

“I took an oath to uphold the law, and I am bound by that oath, regardless of social or economic status. I intend to do my job as sheriff.”

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Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].