Pubdate: Mon, 27 May 2002
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2002 The State
Author: Rick Brundrett


All three Republican candidates for S.C. attorney general have experience 
in the criminal justice system, though each would have different priorities 
as the state's top prosecutor.

The three candidates in the June 11 primary are:

. Henry McMaster, 55, of Columbia, former U.S. attorney for South Carolina 
and former chairman of the state Republican Party;

. Jon Ozmint, 37, of Columbia, former chief prosecutor with the state grand 
jury, a division of the S.C. Attorney General's Office;

. _Larry Richter, 55, of Mount Pleasant, former state senator and 
municipal, family and circuit court judge.

The winner of the primary will face the lone Democratic candidate, Steve 
Benjamin, in the November general election. Benjamin is the former director 
of the state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.

Current Attorney General Charlie Condon decided not to seek a third, 
four-year term, and instead is running for governor in the GOP primary.

The three GOP attorney general candidates, who are private practice 
lawyers, are making their first attempts for the seat.

If elected attorney general, McMaster said, his top priority would be to 
establish a "Child Predator Task Force," a joint state-federal effort to 
prevent sexual predators from using the Internet to target children. He 
also would seek passage of state laws that would make it a crime to lure 
children through the Internet and give the state grand jury more power to 
investigate those crimes.

"I think it's serious beyond our wildest imaginations," he said. "Many 
households have computers, and that opens the window to everyone."

McMaster also would create a separate task force to combat street-level 
drug dealers statewide. That program, he said, would be modeled after a 
successful program run by Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York City mayor.

McMaster is a big believer in task forces, citing the success of "Operation 
Jackpot" when he was the U.S. attorney for South Carolina from 1981-85.

The drug smuggling investigation resulted in more than 100 convictions and 
the seizure of about $17 million in assets.

As attorney general, McMaster said, he would support changing state law to 
allow the death penalty for convicted drug kingpins. He also would like to 
see a law passed to require all felons to serve their full sentences.

Ozmint also would push for changes in state law. For example, he supports 
legislation that would require felons to serve at least 85 percent of their 
time, regardless of their crimes. He also would severely limit the number 
of "good-time" credits used to reduce inmates' sentences.

To better combat domestic violence, Ozmint said, judges should be required 
to admit into evidence past reports of abuse involving the suspect and victim.

Besides targeting spouse abusers, Ozmint also would go after white-collar 
criminals. He blames state lawmakers for creating a criminal code that he 
says is tougher on street-level criminals than public officials who 
embezzle thousands of dollars.

"When I became a prosecutor, I learned the laws have been set up to protect 
them," Ozmint said, adding he would seek legislative changes in that area.

When he was with the state grand jury, which investigates public corruption 
cases, Ozmint prosecuted the Sumter District 17 embezzlement case, 
described as the largest public corruption scam in state history. Fifteen 
defendants were convicted of bilking the district out of a total of about 
$3.5 million over 10 years.

Though most of his time as attorney general would be spent on criminal 
matters, Ozmint said he also would work on reducing civil caseloads 
statewide. For example, he said, he would seek a law allowing juries to 
force a plaintiff to pay a defendant's lawyer fees and other costs if 
jurors determined a lawsuit was frivolous.

Richter says he has vast experience in both civil and criminal law, citing 
his 13 years of experience as a municipal, family and circuit judge. 
Richter also points to his experience as a state senator from 1993 through 
1996, and his service on the state Medical Examiner Commission and state 
Aviation Authority.

As attorney general, Richter said, he would push for a law requiring jail 
time for those convicted of second-offense drunken driving. First offenders 
would have to participate in roadside cleanup jobs. Under his proposal, DUI 
offenders also would be listed on a statewide registry.

Richter, who noted he imposed five death sentences as a circuit judge, said 
state law should be changed to speed up death penalty appeals.

Richter said he would create a gambling oversight division that would 
primarily target crimes involving the state lottery. Richter, a lead lawyer 
in lawsuits against the now-banned video poker industry, is concerned the 
lottery invites "real corruption."

"I believe we will have a video lottery in a very short time, and it will 
invite the same cast of characters," he said.

Richter also has released a detailed homeland security and preparedness 
plan in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His proposals include 
using remote-control video cameras to monitor large public areas, and 
devices at shipping ports that can detect radiation and bio-chemical agents.

Each of the attorney general candidates claims substantial support for 
their campaigns. McMaster has received endorsements from U.S. Rep. Joe 
Wilson and 44 state House of Representative members. Ozmint has been 
endorsed by former U.S. Congressman Bob Inglis and says he has strong 
rank-and-file party support statewide. Richter has been endorsed by former 
U.S. Congressman Tommy Hartnett and a group of sheriffs and other law 
enforcement officials.
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