A candidate for sheriff of Oconee County was arrested Wednesday after state investigators said he plotted the kidnapping of a judge.
According to 10th Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams, James Bartee, 54, of Seneca, was arrested in Anderson and charged with solicitation to commit a felony after an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division.
Adams said Bartee was recorded trying to solicit someone to kidnap retired Circuit Court Judge James Williams Jr.
According to a warrant, Bartee gave money to the person he asked to kidnap Williams in order to buy items that would aid in the commission of the crime.
According to the Bartee campaign's Facebook page, there has been an ongoing dispute between him and Williams regarding Bartee's eligibility to run for the office.
Williams recently filed a lawsuit claiming that Bartee could not run for sheriff because he had not been certified as a South Carolina law enforcement officer, which he said is required by law.
Hearings have been held to determine if Bartee was eligible to run for office, and Bartee was arrested during the hearing on Wednesday. Williams told FOX Carolina that he believed Bartee may have thought the hearings would not be able to proceed without Williams' presence.
Williams said his suit was motivated by the law, not politics. There is no word yet if Bartee will remain on the ballot.
Bartee served as an agent of the U.S. Secret Service for 25 years, according to his campaign website.
Williams is the judge who presided over the sentencing of John Ludwig, a Greenville businessman who pleaded guilty to reckless homicide in a 2009 fatal crash in Travelers Rest. Ludwig was sentenced to probation - a sentence that stirred controversy.
Bartee appeared in court Thursday morning where a judge set his bond at $10,000 surety and ordered him to surrender his passport because he was considered a flight risk.
Bartee's attorney Stephen Brown said the case was all political and requested a personal recognizance bond, which the judge granted. His next court appearance is set for June 29 at 9 a.m. in Oconee County.
After he was released on bond, Bartee said he was innocent and will be vindicated.
Brown said Bartee made the effort to become certified by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, but he said the academy is not following the law when it comes to issuing the certificate.
"It's been a tough campaign and I have had a lot of stuff thrown at me, trying to get me off the ballot," said Bartee after his bond hearing. "Now this is the next step, just arrest me. What I'm telling you is I'm still on the ballot. It will be up to the people. Do they believe me? And the truth will come out, the full story."
Brown said the issue won't be resolved until after the election is over, which is less than two weeks away.
"Mr. Bartee is going to be running hard for sheriff over the next several weeks and fully expects to be elected," said Brown. "Bottom line is Mr. Bartee is fully qualified to run for sheriff and serve as sheriff in Oconee County."
Three other Republican candidates are on the ballot for Oconee County Sheriff for the June 12 primary.
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Read how South Carolina defines a "law enforcement officer" in order to run for an elected position.
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