Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor's Office to hire more prosecutors with state funding

Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor's Office to hire more prosecutors with state funding

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - The 15th Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office has funding to add a total of nine prosecutors, easing the heavy caseload staff has been dealing with the last several years.

"Horry County was in pretty bad shape a couple of years ago, but we have done more with less and I believe that mindset going forward in the future will put us in a lot better shape," Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said.

The solicitor's office is getting $753,551.01 from the state budget between both Horry and Georgetown counties to add prosecutors to what has been a small staff compared to other counties with similar numbers of cases.

"Charleston brings in then same number of felony warrants and they have 32 people, 32 prosecutors doing what 15 prosecutors were doing in Horry," Richardson said.

He added he'll have more than 9,000 cases this year. However, he's not worried about tackling the continuously climbing number of cases because he has state funding for nine prosecutors.

"It's always preferable for a prosecutor to be able to get to the cases quicker before the memories fade," Richardson said. "In our area it's so transient, before people move or die or whatever. That's going to be a big upshot to the victims also."

Richardson recently brought on a new domestic violence prosecutor with state funding.

"Domestic violence cases actually take on a dynamic all of their own," he said. "It's the only time you'll get 75 to 80 percent of the victims wanting to drop the charges."

Richardson said the position is especially helpful because two-thirds of all of the domestic violence cases now come to his office after changes were made to the laws two years ago.

"It drastically increased the penalties on domestic violence and so much of our system is set up around those penalties," he said. "We have very few misdemeanors anymore. Most of them are felonies."

The state is also giving the solicitor's office the funding for eight more prosecutors. Richardson said he'll bring them in two at a time over the next several years.

"You don't want to do all that at one time. I don't think that's effective," he said. "If we can train basically pairs up, then you don't have this influx of people that are green right out of law school or whatever, having to train everybody at one time."

They'll be helpful when it comes to fighting the heroin epidemic.

"Heroin changes everything and when you're talking about these 9,000 cases, felony warrants that were going to get this year, basically all of the drugs are heroin now," Richardson said. "Probably 75 percent of the property crime is related to heroin."

He said when heroin dealers get sentenced, it sends a strong message.

"I think that will make a big, big difference when the dealers start talking about how much time people are getting," he said.

Richardson said he's looking at building an office space to be able to house additional prosecutors.

He hopes to get the caseload per prosecutor eventually down to under 300 cases each. Three years ago, the prosecutors were each working 560 cases.

After adding a couple of prosecutors in recent years, Richardson estimates they're at caseload of about 450 right now.

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