UNION COUNTY — A local legislator’s plans to run for statewide office, the hospital district’s financial struggles, and the prison sentences handed down in cases involving crimes committed in previous years made headlines in Union County in 2013.
After six terms representing Union County in the S.C. House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Anthony announced in August that he would seek the Democratic nomination for State Superintendent of Education.
Prior to his election to S.C. House District 42 seat, Anthony spent more than 30 years as a public school teacher. I addition to being a teacher, Anthony, a graduate of Gardner-Webb University, coached football at his alma mater, Union High School, for more than 20 years.
As head football coach, Anthony led the Yellowjackets to state championships in 1999, 2000, and 2002.
In announcing his candidacy for State Superintendent of Education, Anthony called for an end to partisanship in education and for a renewed focus on and support of teachers doing the job of educating children. Citing his experience as both a teacher and a football coach, said if elected the team he would assemble the State Superintendent’s Office would include both teachers and representatives of the business world.
Anthony said that given how crucial education is to the future of South Carolina and the nation it is is important that the teaching profession regain the respect it had when he began his career as an educator. He also said that education is key to economic success, pointing out that there are 11,000 jobs in the Upstate that are not being filled because the region doesn’t have a large enough workforce of persons possessing the skills to fill those jobs. If elected, Anthony said he would work to ensure that the educational system would provide the training needed to provide students with the skills needed to fill those high-paying jobs.
During six of his 12 years in the House, Anthony was a member of the House Education Committee. He is currently a member of the House Rules and Ways and Means committees.
As a Democrat, Anthony has been in the minority in the Republican-dominated House throughout his 12 years in office. This has not, however, prevented him from working to effectively represent District 42 in the House, including securing enough support to override a veto by Gov. Nikki Haley.
In June, Haley vetoed 81 items in the state budget including $1.25 million allocated to the Union County Carnegie Library for renovations, repairs, and other improvements. The state allocation amounted to more than half the cost of the library’s ongoing renovation efforts.
Representatives of the library and its support group, the Friends of the Library, then sought the help of Anthony, the chairman of the Union County Legislative Delegation, in getting the allocation restored. While he was supportive, Anthony said the House did not have the extra money, but Sen. Harvey Peeler, a Republican whose district includes part of Union County and is therefore a member of the county’s legislative delegation, said the Senate did have additional revenues which could be put into the budget.
To get the money in the budget, however, the General Assembly would have to override Haley’s veto, and Anthony went to work to convince his fellow House members to do so. Anthony began by taking to the floor of the House to tell its members how much the library, which was named best small in America in 2009, did for the county, and how 60,000 people had walked through its doors the previous year.
Anthony also reminded his fellow House member how, during his years in office, he’d supported the quality of life projects they’d sought funding for in the past including the green bean museum in Florence County and the Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg County. He also reminded them that he’d never before asked for an earmark for Union County.
The result of Anthony’s efforts was that 87 of the House’s 124 members voted to override Haley’s veto and restore the funding for the library. The Senate also voted to override the veto, giving the library the funds it needed for the project.
In September, it was announced that a study conducted by the South Carolina Office of Rural Health of the health sector’s impact on Union County’s economy in 2012 found that a total of 1,094 jobs were created either directly or indirectly by local health care services with a total payroll of $94,300,743. The study also found that, directly or indirectly, the health sector and its employees generated retail sales totaling $11,832,178.
The study found that the health care sector in Union County employed a total of 853 full- and part-time employees in 2012 with an estimated payroll of $42,180,055. The largest employer was Wallace Thomson Hospital with 294 employees and a payroll of $18,082,701.
Given its impact on the local economy and the health care services it provides the community, the Union Hospital District — which includes the hospital, Ellen Sagar Nursing Home, Union County EMS, and Carolinas Health Associates — is an important asset to Union County. Despite its importance, however, the district has struggled financially in recent years, losing approximately $2 million to $3 million a year due to a combination of providing care to patients who are uninsured and reductions in reimbursements by Medicare, Medicaid, and insurance companies. In March, district CEO Paul Newhouse reported to a joint session of the Union Hospital District Board and Union County Council that the district has seen the percentage of patients who do not have insurance go from 12 percent in September 2012 to 16 in January of this year.
To deal with this, Newhouse announced that the district was working to implement approximately $3 million in spending reductions. He said this would include renegotiating contractual agreements to get reduced costs for outside services; handling more services in-house instead of contracting them out; and greater efficiency. Newhouse said the district had already implemented approximately $700,000 worth of those reductions and hoped to have the rest in place within 90 days.
Newhouse said the goal of the reductions was to get the district back to where it can break even. He said the district was also exploring options that could help move beyond break even to getting back in the black.
Those options included participation in a state program announced by Gov. Haley that pays 100 percent of the cost of charity care at rural hospitals. The program allocates $20 million from South Carolina’s Medicaid disproportionate share hospital program to cover 100 percent of any uncompensated or charity care at 19 Medicaid-designed rural hospitals.
Another option the district explored this year was the Federal Qualified Health Centers program which is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through its Health and Resources Administration. FQHCs are non-profit community-directed health care organizations serving low-income and medically underserved communities.
Even as the district explored these options and implemented spending reductions, it still continued to experience losses including $1.1 million in February and $1.1 million in July. As of the end of July, the district had lost nearly $6 million since the beginning of the fiscal year in October.
In September, however, Newhouse announced that the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services had approved a plan submitted by the district for participation in the State’s Health Outcome Initiative. Newhouse said this means the district would receive $1 million a year from the state.
Also in September, the Union County Council on Public Health and Social Services voted to recommend to the full council that $50,000 in tax revenue generated by tax millage levied for the EMS be released to the district.
In October, the district received another boost in the form of a $250,000 grant from the Timken Foundation, a private, charitable foundation which disburses grants to communities in which Timken Company facilities are located. The two-year grant includes $130,000 the first year to help pay for a new ambulance for the EMS. The Union County Health Care Foundation will raise an additional $20,000 toward that purchase.
The allocation for the second year is $120,000 under a two-to-one arrangement under which the district is required to raise $60,000 from the community by September 2014. The funds will be used to pay for the construction of a helicopter landing pad in the back parking area between the hospital and the CVS pharmacy.
Crime And Punishment
It is said that while the wheels of justice grind slowly they do grind on and that’s what happened in Union County in 2013 as several people charged in crimes that took place in previous years learned what their punishment would be.
The year began with two of the four men charged in an August 2012 shooting that resulted in a chase across two counties pleading guilty to two charges stemming from the incident.
Najawhan Abdul Woodard, 18, 573 E. 2nd St., Chester; Cedric Jamaris Brown, 5681 Woodsferry Road, Chester, Kiama Hason Sanders, 19, 789 Charitty Road, Chester; and Tevin Deonta Fair, 19, 737 Meadowbrook Road, Chester, were arrested in Chester County on Aug. 4, 2012 in connection with a shooting in the parking lot of a Union nightclub earlier that morning.
The four were accused of opening fire on a Union man in the club’s parking lot and then firing on him again as he followed them on the Jonesville-Lockhart Highway. They were stopped inside Chester County and taken into custody by deputies with the Union County Sheriff’s Office with the assistance of the Chester County Sheriff’s Office.
All four were charged with attempted murder, discharging a firearm at a vehicle, unlawful carrying of a handgun, simple possession of marijuana, and open container. Fair, Sanders, and Woodard were also charged minor in possession of beer.
In January, Fair and Woodard pleaded guilty in General Sessions Court to assault and battery first-degree instead of attempted murder and to discharging a firearm into a vehicle. They were sentenced to not more more than six years in the Youth Offenders Authority with credit for time served on each county with the sentences to run concurrently.
In February, a local minister was found guilty of having sex with an underage girl three years earlier.
Stephen Douglas Berry, 38, 848 Bob Little Road, Jonesville, was found guilty of criminal sexual conduct with a minor second-degree and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Berry, the former associate pastor of New Life Baptist Church, was arrested in 2011 and charged by the sheriff’s office with repeatedly having sex with the victim, who was 15 at the time, between May 2010 and November 2010. His case was first brought to trial in July 2012 but the jury was unable to reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared.
The case was brought to trial again in February and went to the jury after four days of testimony. The jury deliberated for a total of six hours during which it twice returned to the courtroom to again hear testimony from the victim and a witness before final returning a verdict.
While awaiting trial, Berry was arrested by the sheriff’s office in April 2011 and charged with sex/lewd act upon a child under 16 for inappropriately touching a 13-year-old girl on numerous occasions during the summer of 2008. He was arrested again a few months later by the Union Public Safety Department for criminal sexual conduct third-degree for allegedly engaging in sexual battery of the victim between Feb. 1 and July 8 of 2011. In this instance, the victim was not a minor but was described in the incident report as being mentally defective.
The sex/lewd act charge is still pending but the criminal sexual conduct third-degree charge was dismissed in August 2012 due to the death of the victim.
In May, Matthew Fain learned he would spend 12 years in prison for a 2011 collision that killed two men.
Fain, 27, 620 Evans St., Whitmire, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on each of two counts of felony DUI resulting death. The sentence was suspended to 12 years in prison, 36 months probation, and 200 hours of public service.
In March, Fain pleaded guilty to the May 19, 2011 collision that killed Toy Edwin Grady, 67, 4198 Cross Keys Highway, Union, and James Anderson Jeter, 60, 5427 Cross Keys Highway, Enoree.
Fain suffered a broken bone in his right foot, a crushed left elbow, a broken upper femur in his left leg, and severe internal damage. At the time of his sentencing, Fain’s attorney pointed out he was still suffering from his injuries and asked that he be allowed to serve his sentence at a S.C. Department of Corrections medical facility. The judge granted the request.
In November, Lashawn Brannon was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the death of an infant.
Brannon, 26, 254 Mt. Joy Church Road, Union, was arrested in December 2011 and charged by the sheriff’s office with murder and homicide by child abuse in the death of nine month old Talayna Renwick of 413 Toluca St., Union.
Talayna had been left in Brannon’s care on Dec. 14, 2011, by her mother who later that afternoon got a call from Brannon telling her that the child had fallen off the bed several hours earlier and he was now unable to get her to wake up. Her mother took the child to Wallace Thomson Hospital from where, due to the severity of her injuries, she was airlifted to Greenville Hospital. Talayna never regained consciousness and died at Greenville Hospital on Dec. 16, 2011.
During Brannon’s trial, Deputy Solicitor John Anthony stated that Talayna had suffered severe head injuries including a fractured skull, that the tissue connecting her mouth to her lip had been torn, and she had a number of bruises about her body.
Brannon pleaded guilty to attempted murder in August and was sentenced a month later. He was given credit for the 689 days he’d already served in jail. The judge also ordered Brannon’s name be entered into the Central Registry of Child Abusers.
Also in November, a woman who stabbed to death the man she said had been abusing her for more than three years was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Christina Oliver, 37, 116 Hunters Trail, Whitmire, was arrested in Sept. 2012 by the sheriff’s office and charged with murder in the death of Kenneth Goins, 33, also of 116 Hunters Trail, Whitmire. Oliver, who’d been held in jail since her arrest, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 12 years with credit for the 214 days she’d already spent in jail.
Between the time she entered her plea and her sentencing, the defense and the state presented evidence to determine whether or not Oliver would have to serve 85 percent of her sentence or be eligible for parole. Oliver testified to the abuse she said she repeatedly suffered Goins’ hand during the course of their relationship while the state pointed out that of the four instances where authorities were called to the scene it was a third party, not Goins, who called them in.
In passing sentence, the judge said that while he didn’t believe everything Goins had said, the defense had nevertheless presented credible evidence of a pattern of criminal domestic violence against her. As a result, she would be eligible for parole.
The November and December sessions of General Sessions Court also saw the four men charged in the 2012 shooting death of a Union teen plead guilty and be sentenced to prison.
In August of 2012, Chadrick Harold Johnson, 23, 851 Cambridge St., Carlisle; Devonta Elemeshion Mobley, 20, 124 Lawrence St., Carlisle; Daveus Lamonte Boler, 18, 4879 English Avenue, Carlisle; and Danny Ray Gossett, 21, 208 Leroy Gossett Road, Union, were arrested and charged by the Union County Sheriff’s Office with murder, attempted murder, malicious injury, and discharging a firearm into a dwelling.
The four were charged in the shooting death of 17-year-old Dequan Tyrone Jones who, along with a 20-year-old man, were shot in the Lukesville Road area of Buffalo around 2:30 a.m. Aug. 12, 2012. Jones died at Wallace Thomson Hospital a short time later while the second man, whose injuries were not life threatening, was treated and eventually released from the hospital.
Johnson was arrested the day of the shooting while Mobley was arrested on Aug. 24, 2012. Boler and Gossett were arrested at their homes on Aug. 29, 2012. All four were denied bond and remained in jail until their cases were brought to trial.
In November, Mobley pleaded guilty to attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, and discharging a firearm into a dwelling while Johnson pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact of attempted murder and accessory after the fact of voluntary manslaughter.
Mobley was sentenced to 16 years in prison on the attempted murder charge, 16 years in prison on the voluntary manslaughter charge, and 10 years in prison for discharging a firearm into a dwelling.
Johnson was sentenced to 12 years on the accessory after the fact of attempted murder and 12 years on the accessory after the fact of voluntary manslaughter charged.
In December, it was Boler and Gossett’s turn with Boler pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter, attempted murder, and discharging a firearm into a dwelling and Gossett pleading guilty to accessory after the fact of voluntary manslaughter and accessory after the fact of attempted murder.
Boler was sentenced to 15 years on the voluntary manslaughter charge, 15 years on the attempted murder charge, and eight years on the charge of discharging a firearm into a dwelling.
Gossett was sentenced to eight years on the accessory after the fact of voluntary manslaughter charge and eight years on the accessory after the fact of attempted murder charge.
All four were given credit for time served and their sentences are running concurrently.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.