Felony larceny charges have been dropped against Commissioner Giles “Buddy” Byrd.
Byrd was arrested in September on charges of larceny and possession of stolen goods. He was accused of taking a storage building from a campground he owns at Lake Waccamaw, and using the building on another property. The building was returned to the site shortly before his arrest.
Mike Willis, Byrd’s attorney, said the owner of the storage barn owed six months back rent on the campsite, and had left the building on the property.
The building was leased from a storage barn firm by Maury Reaves, and is valued at $6,900.
“There was never any intent on Mr. Byrd’s or anyone else’s part to permanently deprive Mr. Reaves of his building,” Willis said in a statement earlier this month. “It was never secreted nor offered for sale to anyone. Mr. Reaves never contacted Mr. Byrd to inquire about what had happened to his building. He has also not paid the back rent that he owes 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.”
District Attorney Jon David as special prosecutor Charles Spahos to handle the case. Spahos filed the motion to dismiss Wednesday in Columbus County.
“I interviewed the arresting officer, reviewed the file, and asked for specific follow-up investigations that have now concluded,” Spahos said in an email. “Following those steps, I determined that the attached dismissal was the appropriate disposition to the case.
“I do believe the investigating detective acted in good faith and made the determination to charge the defendant based on the evidence before him at the time.”
Willis bluntly said that the charges were the result for the tight race between Byrd and former Highway Patrolman Ray Battle for the seat Byrd holds on the county board. Sheriff Jody Greene has openly endorsed Battle. Byrd has been a frequent critic of Greene and the sheriff’s office since Greene took office.
“I am convinced that the Sheriff is behind this, and it is all about embarrassing Mr. Byrd and trying to influence his bid for re-election to the county commission. We should all be concerned that an elected law enforcement official would wield this kind abusive power against any citizen.”
Greene stood by his earlier statement that politics played no role in the investigation or arrest.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a politician or a regular person,” Greene said. ”The law does not discriminate. I will uphold the law.”
Spahos said that there was no indication that the manager of the campround, Mike Butts, will face charges in the case.
“There are no other pending charges related to this matter,” Spahos wrote in an email. “In my last conversation with the investigating officer, I was informed he did not intend to bring additional charges.”