Pubdate: Wed, 08 Oct 2003
Source: Anderson Independent-Mail (SC)
Copyright: 2003 Independent Publishing Company, a division of E.W. Scripps
Author: Emily Huigens


The widow of a suspected drug lord has sued Anderson County Sheriff Gene 
Taylor for participating in what she called a relentless and fraudulent 
criminal investigation into her life and business.

Janice Burkhart, widow of Ronnie Burkhart, who died in April 2000 during an 
investigation into his alleged drug trade, filed a lawsuit in Anderson 
County last week claiming law enforcement officials on the case have no 
evidence of any wrongdoing.

Mrs. Burkhart was arrested Oct. 1, 2001, and charged with 17 counts of 
money laundering but was released 18 days later after a magistrate judge 
found insufficient evidence behind her arrest.

A team including sheriff's offices in Anderson, Oconee and Pickens 
counties, the State Law Enforcement Division and the U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Agency seized $789,000 in cash and several pieces of real estate from the 
Burkharts over the course of the investigation.

Last month, the agencies agreed to split proceeds from Burkhart real estate 
seized in Anderson County, with 55 percent returned to Mrs. Burkhart.

Sheriff Taylor, who sued to ensure his office would receive some of the 
credit and proceeds from the seizure, called Mrs. Burkhart's part of the 
agreement a "sweetheart deal."

He said Wednesday he was glad Mrs. Burkhart had filed a lawsuit.

"It'll give us a chance to depose her and a number of witnesses that we 
couldn't have done in criminal trials," he said.

He said he's disturbed that the investigation, which began in 1989, never 
resulted in time behind bars for Mr. or Mrs. Burkhart or their associates.

"There are serious, serious questions about why nobody has gone to jail," 
he said. "I think there needs to be a Department of Justice Investigation."

Mrs. Burkhart's lawsuit requests unspecified damages as compensation for 
malicious prosecution, abuse of process, intentional infliction of 
emotional distress, false imprisonment, conversion, slander and defamation, 
conspiracy and negligence.
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