SUMTER, S.C. — The life he had spent years building up came crashing down for former Florence County Sheriff William Kenney Boone on Wednesday morning.
Boone, 54, was sentenced to a suspended sentence of five years in prison with credit for one day served, five years on probation with the possibility of early release if he makes restitution of more than $17,000 and mandatory counseling if needed. The sentence was imposed by Judge William McKinnon at the Sumter County Judicial Center Wednesday morning.
McKinnon is a judge in the state’s 16th Judicial Circuit, which includes York County. He was elected to the bench on Feb. 7, 2018 by the South Carolina General Assembly.
The sentence is a conclusion of an investigation into Boone that stretched from 2018.
Boone had spent the majority of his life working for the sheriff’s office, starting off as a dispatcher, becoming a deputy in 1987, and being elected sheriff as a Democrat in 2004 over Republican Kim W. Stroud.
He was reelected in 2008 with 55.31% of the vote as a Republican over Democrat James C. “Jimmy” Gregg. Boone was reelected unopposed in 2012. In 2016, Boone was elected with 57.01% of the vote over Democrat Jody Lynch.
Prior to his indictment, all signs pointed to Boone running again in 2020. He had begun to file paperwork with the state ethics commission and told the Morning News in a q&a that he would be seeking reelection.
As sheriff, Boone was making at least $100,000 per year.
Boone, however, began to change in 2018 according to Assistant Attorney General Heather Weiss at the hearing on Wednesday.
Weiss’ comments to the court are consistent with the reports of many members of the sheriff’s office, detailing a definitive change in Boone.
Weiss said Boone became less available to the command staff of the sheriff’s office and would disappear for days at a time.
Boone told the Morning News in March that he had never really been away from the sheriff’s office and was in constant contact with the command staff.
In 2018, Boone married Anna Curlington, nee Covey. The two had been dating since at least 2016.
Curlington had apparently separated from her now ex-husband in March 2015.
Her ex-husband married a State Law Enforcement Division agent, perhaps creating some animus from Boone toward the agency when the agency refused to fire the agent.
Boone said at a question-and-answer session in March that anything his wife’s ex-husband could make up about him, the ex-husband would do, and that both the SLED agent and the ex-husband were focused on him.
One of the rumors — vehemently denied by Boone in March 2019 — was that Boone turned SLED away from the scene of a shooting on Oct. 3, 2018, in favor of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department because of his issues with the agency.
Boone told the court on Wednesday morning that one of the agents from SLED on the scene, Cricket Grant, told him that he would regret sending SLED away from the scene.
“I really do,” Boone said. He also apologized to SLED and Grant especially for any embarrassment he caused them that day.
Boone and his new wife purchased a home in the Vintage Place subdivision in 2018.
According to Florence County tax assessor records, the home was purchased by the couple on Sept. 28, 2018, at a price of $312,000.
Weiss noted that Boone soon purchased his new wife a car, a GMC Yukon.
A new 2020 GMC Yukon retails for $50,600 in its base package.
Weiss detailed that Boone began to live above his means by using county funds to cover personal expenditures including new floor mats for his wife’s new vehicle.
According to documents available at the hearing Wednesday, these expenditures totaled $4,206.07.
These expenditures apparently aroused the suspicions of former Florence County finance director Kevin Yokim, who began to question them.
Yokim left the county in 2019 to take a job with the city of Florence.
In response to Yokim’s questions, Boone left allegedly threatening voicemails for Yokim.
The alleged threats were also investigated by SLED.
Weiss authored a memorandum arguing that Boone should not be charged for the alleged threats. This memorandum was approved by Attorney General Alan Wilson and his top subordinate.
Boone’s battle with Yokim would culminate at a county council meeting in December 2018 when he accused Yokim and his wife of using social media to “run him into the ground.”
Yokim spoke later in the meeting, telling the county council he did so to defend his wife’s honor. Yokim denied that he or his wife had used social media to comment about Boone.
Boone would move on from Yokim after the meeting, beginning a campaign to get raises for the deputies in the sheriff’s office from the Florence County Council.
In March, Boone told the Morning News that the council was in a position to do something about the raises but said there was no money. He admitted getting frustrated by the situation.
The county council detailed that it was limited in its ability to give raises out by Act 388 from 2006, which limits the ability of the county to raise property taxes from year to year, and by the shortfall in the local government fund. The county told Boone that it would find a way to take care of the deputies.
Boone, however, continued to push for the raises.
The county council would later approve the raises after the proposal went through two council committees.
Also, Boone apparently switched the account he was using to supplement his income from one overseen by Yokim to a federal drug money account outside Yokim’s oversight.
The drug money arises from confiscations of large amounts of cash and other items seized by the sheriff’s office during traffic stops.
Boone’s personal expenditures from this account totaled $10,808.50.
The expenditures also aroused the suspicions of the command staff of the sheriff’s office.
SLED began to investigate the matter.
Eventually, on Wednesday, April 24, 2019, Boone was indicted by the state grand jury and arrested by SLED agents. He was indicted on two counts of embezzlement and one count of common-law misconduct while in office.
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 in prison.
Boone told the court on Wednesday that as soon as the agents came he sat down with them and explained where the money was.
This was disputed by Weiss at the hearing. She said Boone initially denied using the funds to live above his means but then took full responsibility for his actions.
Boone was then taken from Florence to Columbia for a bail hearing before Judge DeAndrea G. Benjamin.
Being in the custody of SLED agents at the time resulted in credit of one day served in jail for Boone.
Benjamin set Boone’s bond as 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 in May.
Gov. Henry McMaster suspended Boone the same day he was indicted and appointed former Florence County Sheriff William C. “Billy” Barnes as 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, apparently failing to report a campaign contribution and using the funds for himself and his family.
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.
Boone owes his campaign account $2,000.
According to the sentence, once the money is paid back, Boone must close the account.
Pleading guilty to the embezzlement charge also cost Boone his position as sheriff. Once he pleaded, state law required that he be removed from office with Barnes filling the remainder of his term until the election of a new sheriff on Nov. 3. McMaster also issued an executive order to this effect Wednesday afternoon.
Five people have declared for the office — 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.