HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – A 72-year-old candidate running for an Horry County Council seat and a State Senate seat was arrested Tuesday after police ran an undercover investigation and allegedly caught him taking a $5,000 bribe to drop out of the election for Horry County Council District 4.
Richard Withington was arrested and booked into the J. Reuben Long Detention Center at 1:31 p.m. Tuesday and charged with "inducement to file for, or withdraw from, candidacy for election," according to jail records. He was granted a $10,000 cash or surety bond at a hearing Wednesday afternoon.
According to the Horry County Police report, Withington attempted to have four people give him $20,000 so he would drop out of the race for Horry County District 4. Police requested that one of these people help them in the investigation and arrest of Withington.
Police and one of the victims called Withington, who said he wanted a total of $20,000, but would accept $5,000 from the one victim as his share of the total, the report states. Police then recorded the call where they arranged to meet Withington.
The officer arrived at the meeting location with an envelope containing $5,000, according to the police report. Withington was then arrested.
Withington is running for the Horry County Council District 4 seat currently held by Gary Loftus, and the State Senate District 34 seat held by Raymond E. Cleary, III.
The South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 7 on Elections, states on the charge of "inducement to file for, or withdraw from, candidacy for election":
"(A) It is unlawful to offer or accept, or attempt to offer or accept, either directly or indirectly, money, a loan of money, or any other thing of value which includes, but is not limited to, employment or the promise of employment to induce a person to file or withdraw as a candidate for any state or federal elected office.
"Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit legitimate campaign contributions or the pledge to make a campaign contribution as otherwise allowed by law. Nor shall this section prevent a person from paying from his own funds, the filing fee of an immediate family member which means a spouse, child, grandchild, mother, father, sister, or brother.
"Any person convicted of violating the provisions of this section shall be fined not more than ten thousand dollars or imprisoned for not more than one year.
"(B) The Attorney General or the solicitor of the judicial circuit in which the violation occurred, shall prosecute immediately a person violating the provisions of this section.
"(C) Nothing in this section shall preclude appropriate civil remedies by an aggrieved party. The court shall, upon a finding that a person violated the provisions of this section, award reasonable attorney's fees and the costs of bringing such action as determined by the court."