SUMTER, S.C. — Former Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to two charges and was sentence to five years on probation.
Boone, 54, pleaded to charges of embezzlement of less than $17,000 and misconduct in office before Judge William A. McKinnon.
The sentence was suspended by McKinnon to five years’ probation with the possibility of removal of probation after 18 months if Boone pays back the money he owes.
McKinnon ordered mandatory substance abuse screening and mental health counseling. Boone also gets credit for one day served in jail.
Boone must repay $4,206.07 to the Florence County general fund, $10,808.50 to the sheriff’s office federal drug fund, and $2,000 to his own campaign account.
Boone and his attorney, Butch Bowers, signed an order of restitution saying he owed more than $17,000.
A lien also will be filed against Boone’s retirement accounts.
After Boone repays the money to the campaign account, it must be closed.
Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order Wednesday afternoon declaring that the office of sheriff is vacant, that the office will be filled in the 2020 general election, and that interim Sheriff William C. “Billy” Barnes will fill the role until the election.
The attorney general’s office described how Boone changed how he ran the department in 2018 including disappearing for days at a time. Shortly after marrying the former Anna Curlington, Boone purchased a new house and his wife a new vehicle.
Boone’s improper expenditures are related to items for his wife’s vehicle and other personal items for his family.
Boone used a federal account to spend money and a county account to live above his means.
The state did not recommend a sentence but asked that if probation was given, substance abuse and mental health screening be given and whatever treatment recommended be followed.
Bowers said there was no doubt Boone had a serious lapse in judgment and betrayed the trust of the people of Florence County. He added that Boone had taken responsibility for his actions and had served the county for more than 30 years.
He also said Boone had sought treatment for “PTSD-like” symptoms.
Bowers requested probationary sentencing but with voluntarily treatment instead of mandatory treatment.
Boone said he was very embarrassed. He said he had absolutely made bad decisions but said he took full responsibility for his actions.
He also said he felt great and there was no doubt that he would be a better citizen.
Boone said his family has been through a lot and asked for consideration of that in sentencing.
Boone also apologized to agents of the State Law Enforcement Division, particularly for embarrassing them after an October 2018 shooting.
McKinnon took a short recess to consider Boone’s sentence.
Jan. 20 had been set as a trial date for Boone.
Boone, Florence County’s sheriff since 2004 and an employee of the sheriff’s office since 1987, was arrested and suspended on April 24, 2019.
On that Wednesday, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced the indictment of Boone on two counts of embezzlement and one count of common law misconduct while in office.
“Today a very sad chapter for Florence County comes to an end,” Florence County Chief Deputy Glen Kirby said. “We pray for Boone and his family and as the new chapter begins, we look forward to meeting the challenge of rebuilding and re-earning the confidence and trust of Florence County.”
“While this case is unfortunate, it underscores that no one is above the law, even our law enforcement leaders,” Attorney General Alan Wilson said.
Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said, “The Attorney General’s Office and SLED consider the investigation into the inappropriate spending of county monies and the matter into former Florence County Sheriff William ‘Kenney’ Boone closed. The emphasis on the Florence Sheriff’s Office should now be placed where it belongs, on the men and women of the FCSO providing quality law enforcement services to the citizens of Florence County.”
A phone call placed to Boone seeking comment went directly to voicemail.
The embezzlement offenses are statutory felonies punishable by up to five years in prison each and a fine at the discretion of the court.
The misconduct offense is a common-law misdemeanor punishable by up to 10 years.
After Boone was arrested, he was taken to Columbia where a bond hearing was held before Judge DeAndrea G. Benjamin.
Benjamin set a $50,000 personal recognizance bond with electronic monitoring and a no-contact order for the sheriff’s department. She later removed the requirement of electronic monitoring.
Gov. Henry McMaster suspended Boone the same day and appointed Barnes interim sheriff. Barnes previously served from 1974 to 1993.
The next day, the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association announced that Boone, a former president, was no longer a member of the organization.
Later, Boone was charged with one count of misconduct in office and with three campaign finance violations.
The ethics violations are statutory misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine no less than $5,000 and not more than 500% of the amount of contributions that should have been reported.
His bond remained the same.
Boone had been filing campaign financial disclosures for a potential 2020 run but stopped filing them after he was indicted.
Five people — Republicans Glen Kirby, the current chief deputy of the sheriff’s office, and T.J. Joye; and Democrats Darrin Yarborough, Frizell Moore and Jody Lynch — have declared for the office.
On Nov. 3, exactly one year before the 2020 general election, an election date was set by state law. No special election will be needed and the sheriff’s position will be filled on Nov. 3, 2020, with Barnes serving until then.