FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – Wednesday’s arrest and indictment of Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone sent shockwaves throughout the Pee Dee that reverberated with residents and politicians alike.
Republican Sen. Hugh Leatherman, who represents District 31 which includes Florence, took to Facebook Wednesday to express his shock about what had transpired.
“Like everyone, I am surprised and disappointed with the news this morning (Wednesday) about Sheriff Boone,” Leatherman wrote. “He like all accused in our judicial system should be provided due process and a presumption of innocence.”
Boone was arrested after a state grand jury indicted him on two counts of embezzlement and one count of misconduct in office. A Richland County judge set a $50,000 personal recognizance bond at his arraignment, as well as ordered the defendant to be outfitted with electronic monitoring and incarcerated at his home.
The indictment alleges that Boone used both county and federal funds allocated to the Florence County Sheriff’s Office for his own personal use.
Leatherman said the sheriff’s arrest and indictment is “a reminder that elected officials should be held to a higher standard, especially those charged with enforcing the laws that are the backbone of our democracy.”
The South Carolina Sheriffs’ Association also released a statement on Boone’s arrest calling the indictment ‘truly heartbreaking for all parties involved.’
The organization also said that as result of Boone’s suspension, he is no longer a member of the SC Sheriffs’ Association.
Residents in Florence County said they’re still in disbelief, but more so think it’s a sad situation not only for Boone, but for the entire department.
“I thought it was very sad, very sad for Florence, very sad for the sheriff’s department because we all knew him so well," resident DeAnn Breeden said.
“I mean I just think that it’s tragic. I feel sorry for his family and the department, but I’m disappointed in him, you know, we believed in him and he was supported by the community and he let us down big time," resident Genia Tyson said.
Darrin Yarborough, a former employee of the department for 20 years, said the employees are having perhaps the most difficult time dealing with the situation.
“It puts them in a bad position, you know, being up under that type of pressure with them working every day, you know it’s hard, so my thoughts and prayers are with all of them," Yarborough said.
Robert Kittle, spokesperson for the S.C. Attorney General’s office, said Boone’s next court appearance has not yet been scheduled. He added he hasn’t heard of the defendant obtaining a lawyer as of yet.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Boone stood before the judge by himself and served as his own counsel.
Kittle said Boone didn’t have to go through the usual booking process since his was a direct indictment. The personal recognizance bond also means the sheriff doesn’t have to pay anything unless he doesn’t attend a scheduled court appearance.
In light of Boone’s charges, Gov. Henry McMaster suspended him and appointed William “Billy” Barnes to serve as Florence County’s interim sheriff.
Barnes comes with previous experience, having held the position from 1974 to 1993. At a news conference Wednesday, he said one of his first orders of business is asking the State Law Enforcement Division to conduct a complete audit of the Florence County Sheriff’s Office.
“I hope that everyone will join me in supporting the members of the Florence County Sheriff’s Office and acting Sheriff Billy Barnes as they continue to protect and serve,” Leatherman wrote in his online post.