Pubdate: Wed, 01 Oct 2003
Source: Times and Democrat, The (SC)
Copyright: 2003, The Times and Democrat
Note: By The (Charleston) Post and Courier


Charleston attorney Dennis Rhoad, an Orangeburg native, and three
others charged with cocaine possession at a College of Charleston
fraternity house have been referred to a program that would dismiss
the misdemeanor charges in exchange for drug testing and community
service, a prosecutor said Friday.

Rhoad and the other defendants were arrested in June after a campus
police officer reportedly saw them snorting cocaine around a pool
table at the Sigma Chi fraternity house at 107 Wentworth St.

First-time offenders of a nonviolent crime qualify for the Pre-Trial
Intervention Program, which is an alternative to jail, Assistant
Solicitor Ravi Sanyal said.

By entering the program, Rhoad and the other defendants are not
admitting guilt, Sanyal said. If they do not complete the program or
get kicked out, they will be tried. If convicted, they could be sent
to jail for a maximum of two years, he said.

Two others arrested with Rhoad have not been referred to PTI, Sanyal
said. One of them does not qualify, and a decision hasn't been made on
whether to refer the second case to PTI.

Rhoad declined to comment Friday, referring questions to his attorney,
Bart Daniel, who was not available.

Following his arrest, Rhoad, 41, resigned from The Citadel's Board of
Visitors, the college's governing body. Rhoad also lost a position as
a part-time assistant county attorney for the Charleston County
Planning Commission.

Rhoad applied to the pretrial program last month, said PTI coordinator
Michelle Lloyd. The other defendants referred to PTI have not made a
formal application, which can be made before a referral from the
solicitor, she said.

In July, the S.C. Supreme Court placed Rhoad on interim suspension
from the practice of law. The court appointed Charleston attorney
Capers G. Barr III as a trustee of Rhoad's clients, bank accounts and
files. Barr has a law office separate from Rhoad's Broad Street practice.

The S.C. Attorney General's Office is involved in a disciplinary
proceeding against Rhoad, but agency spokesman Trey Walker said he
couldn't provide details.

Henry B. Richardson Jr., with the Supreme Court's Office of the
Disciplinary Counsel at the Supreme Court, said he couldn't discuss
Rhoad's case.

If a defendant completes the program, the charge is dismissed, Sanyal
said. The defendant then may apply to have the charge expunged from
the record.

Richardson said if Rhoad completes the program and if his record is
expunged, then the Supreme Court would decide whether he is reinstated.

In general terms, Richardson said, "the code of professional
responsibility makes it improper for a lawyer to commit a criminal
offense. It does not necessarily speak to being convicted or charged
of a criminal offense."

The PTI program has about 750 participants a year, almost half charged
with drug offenses, Lloyd said.

About 70 to 75 percent of the people in PTI finish the three-month to
one-year program.

Also charged with cocaine possession are James Peter Robinson, 35, of
Charleston; Bryan Heath Brown, 24, of Longs; Jennifer Maja Harmon, 24,
of Charleston; Bradley Andrew Patterson, 21, of Asheville, N.C.; and
Michael Peter Dever, 22, of Charleston.

Sanyal said Brown, Patterson and Harmon also have been referred to

Robinson could be referred to the program later, Sanyal said. Dever is
not eligible because he had a 2001 conviction for assault and battery
of a high and aggravated nature, Sanyal said.
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