MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The man accused of being involved in Brittanee Drexel’s abduction, rape and murder has a new attorney.
Timothy Da'Shaun Taylor has never been charged in connection to that case. Instead, he was linked to it by an inmate's word, a man serving more than two and a half decades in prison who came forward and said he saw Taylor at a stash house in McClellanville where Drexel was allegedly sexually assaulted, killed, and fed to alligators.
Drexel's disappearance is the underlying issue for why Taylor is being prosecuted in federal court. His attorneys have called it a squeeze job by the US Attorney's Office, accusing prosecutors of trying to put Taylor away for an unrelated crime in hopes of getting more information on those involved in Drexel's disappearance and death.
Taylor's new counsel, Charleston attorney Chris Adams, said this isn't the way he believes the justice system should work.
"This is a man that paid his debt, the full debt that was ordered by the judge based on all the understanding of the facts," Adams said. "The federal government had no interest at all in the case. They've only resurrected and dusted off that old case because they are investigating another case that they can't charge."
In 2011, two years after Drexel went missing, Taylor was the conspirator and get-away driver for an armed robbery at a McDonald's in Mount Pleasant. He was 18 at the time and pleaded guilty to state charges. He was given a youthful offender sentence and served 18 months of probation.
But because he pleaded guilty then, his defense team acknowledged he would likely have to do the same when the federal government brought their own charges against him 5 years later for conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act Robbery. The US Attorney's Office claims Taylor affected interstate commerce with his involvement in the McDonald's robbery and that his state sentence wasn't harsh enough to match the crime.
When Taylor was indicted in 2016, his former attorneys argued that it was a violation of the double jeopardy rule. In court documents, they said he was being charged for the same crime twice, and that the federal government was abusing an exception to that rule by trying to put him away for a crime he already confessed to and was convicted of.
Taylor's new attorney calls the prosecution's strategy fundamentally un-American.
"This isn't about one guy maybe not getting a harsh enough sentence in a case years ago. It's about anyone who is charged getting closure and finality in their case, which is what's promised in the constitution," Adams said. "That's not what is being delivered to Mr. Taylor."
Taylor's federal plea agreement stipulated he could be sentenced to less time if he was truthful and cooperative in giving up information related to Drexel. But, an FBI agent said Taylor was being deceptive when he answered "no" to two questions during a polygraph examination. Those questions… "Did you know for sure who was involved in the disappearance of Brittanee Drexel?" and "Did you ever see Brittanee Drexel in person?"
Taylor now faces 10 to 20 years behind bars, and he's awaiting a sentencing hearing to find out his fate.
"My understanding is a finger of accusation was pointed at him by a 25-year felon," Adams said. "People lie to get out of prison every day, so I think we should be very suspicious of any of that. And that's the homicide case that hasn't been charged. There's no evidence to support the accusations, but nevertheless here's poor Mr. Taylor getting squeezed by the feds."
Taylor's plea agreement also took away his right to appeal his sentence unless he claimed there was ineffective assistance by his lawyers, among a few other things. However, we don't know if that is why Taylor relieved his former attorneys earlier this year because the motion was sealed.
"I don't know if they did everything right or not. That's not my focus at this point. My focus is how to help Mr. Taylor," Adams said.
It's a complex case, and Adams is just getting started.
"Fortunately, the judge has given me time to learn the case, and then I'll have to see. Mr. Taylor had entered a plea in this case, and we have to decide to try to litigate to undo that or accept it. It's not going to be an easy decision. I hate that we're here. I hate that the federal government has chosen to pursue a case that was already a conviction in state court," Adams said. "It's complicated. We could certainly litigate this into a worst position for Mr. Taylor, but I think there might also be a path to a better resolution. So, we're going to explore all of those options and make whatever decision is appropriate."
WMBF News reached out to Assistant US Attorney Winston Holliday about where the prosecution stands on this case.
"Chris has to come up to speed then we'll have a hearing to sort all this out, whether the next step is to proceed to sentencing or some other remedy the court wants to consider," Holliday said.
Taylor has never been charged in connection to Drexel's disappearance. No one has.