Pubdate: Tue, 02 Sep 2003
Source: Anderson Independent-Mail (SC)
Copyright: 2003 Independent Publishing Company, a division of E.W. Scripps
Author: Charmaine Smith
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)


Public Statement Verifies County's Involvement In Case

The State Law Enforcement Division and the Oconee County Sheriff's
Office agreed to hand over an estimated $800,000 in property seized
from the estate of a suspected drug kingpin to the Anderson County
Sheriff's Office after six hours of deliberations Tuesday.

The three law enforcement agencies reached an out-of-court settlement
around 6 p.m. Tuesday, ending several months of legal battles over the
William "Ronnie" Burkhart estate.

Anderson County Sheriff Gene Taylor, the Oconee County Sheriff's
Office, the 10th Circuit Solicitor's Office and SLED have been at odds
on who was involved in the Burkhart investigation and how the property
and cash seized should be divided. A civil settlement was reached with
the Burkhart family in March.

About $789,000 in cash has been seized from the Burkhart estate. Real
estate in Oconee, Pickens and Anderson counties also has been seized.
An estimate on how much the real estate is worth, once it is auctioned
off, has not been determined.

Originally, the Anderson County Sheriff's Office received only $61,000
from the cash seized in the Burkhart estate. Sheriff Taylor challenged
that decision and refuted claims that his office had not helped in the
Burkhart investigation.

Before an agreement was reached Tuesday, the agencies wrote a
statement acknowledging that sheriff's offices in Anderson, Oconee and
Pickens counties and SLED contributed equally to the investigation and
that Sheriff Taylor was honest in releasing information in the
Burkhart investigation.

The Burkhart family has been the subject of an ongoing drug
investigation between the Anderson County Sheriff's Office and U.S.
Customs since 1989, retired customs agent Dave McDonald said Tuesday.
Mr. Burkhart died in April 2000 as the investigation into his possible
drug dealings took off.

Greenville attorney Beattie Ashmore, who represented Sheriff Taylor,
said the estimated value of the Anderson County property has to be
verified and then auctioned off. The money is then split up four ways.

Of the estimated $800,000 in property awarded to Sheriff Taylor's
office, the Burkhart family will get 55 percent of the proceeds when
it is sold, and 20 percent will go to the solicitor's office. The
state will collect 5 percent and the sheriff's office will keep the
remaining 20 percent.

Oconee County sheriff's Capt. Donnie Fricks, who was present in the
deliberations, would not comment on the settlement. At the end of the
day, Sheriff Taylor said he was satisfied with the agreement.

"The settlement shows we worked hard in the case," he
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