Pubdate: Fri, 26 Oct 2007
Source: Aiken Standard (SC)
Copyright: 2007sAiken Standard
Author: Karen Daily, Staff Writer


Visibly shaken, Aiken County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Dwayne Courtney 
choked back tears last Thursday, saying his agency has been "knocked to its 
knees" by revelations of betrayal and misconduct within the ranks.

The allegations center on four narcotics officers who spent a night 
bar-hopping and picking up women in the Augusta and North Augusta areas. At 
least one illicit sex act in an unmarked county vehicle was alleged in a 
press release issued by the Sheriff's Office.

The four narcotic investigators have been fired and another has been 
suspended, wiping out the entire narcotics team at the agency and calling 
into question the status of a number of previous, ongoing and pending drug 
cases in and around Aiken County.

Sheriff Michael Hunt has called on the South Carolina Law Enforcement 
Division to conduct a full criminal investigation.

On Friday Hunt addressed the scandal that alleges investigators James 
Crowell, 33, Lt. Jonathon Owenby, 30, Tim Roberts, 29, and Luke Williamson, 
34, drove an unmarked, county-owned automobile to a bar in Augusta on Sept. 
13 where they drank alcohol and left for a bar in North Augusta with two 
women, according to a written press release issued by agency spokesperson 
Lt. Michael Frank.

"After briefly returning to Augusta, the investigators, accompanied by a 
woman, drove to an Aiken County motel," Frank stated. "During the drive, 
the woman performed a sexual act with an investigator."

Hunt was quoted as saying he asked SLED to investigate the allegations for 
misuse of government money, misconduct in office and improper destruction 
of evidence.

The sheriff's office would not discuss the specifics of that investigation, 
the women involved or the type of evidence that may have been destroyed.

Frank did say there is no evidence of drug use at this point, adding also 
that the men were not on duty when they went carousing in the unmarked 
county vehicle.

The agency's internal investigation was launched Tuesday evening after an 
investigator came forward, said Courtney. Owenby and Williamson were 
terminated the next day with Crowell and Roberts fired on Thursday.

Frank said Thursday's probe revealed the most serious allegations.

A fifth investigator, Brian Owens, 38, has been suspended with pay, pending 
the outcome of a SLED investigation. His involvement was not made clear.

All five men have been described as veteran officers, all with patrol 
experience and most with at least two years working in the narcotics 
outfit. Crowell was a Public Safety Officer with the North Augusta 
Department of Public Safety from 1998 through 2005.

Historically, narcotics investigators across the country have found 
themselves in trouble, Courtney said. "But, I don't know if an entire 
narcotics section has ever fallen."

Regardless of the state's investigation, Courtney said he knows there is a 
tough road ahead.

"We have reviewed our policies and procedures and will make gross changes, 
adding new checks and balances," he explained. "Unfortunately we are 
dealing with human beings. Put the human element in, and there can be a 
breakdown, and that is exactly what has happened here."

The agency is reorganizing internally, he added.

A division captain will step in to run the narcotics outfit, and a patrol 
lieutenant with prior narcotics experience will also take a leadership 

Three employees recently promoted to new posts can also be expected to fill 
the vacancies.

Commenting on the turn of events, Hunt said Friday, "I'm just simply hurt."

He quickly added, "This is going to take an obvious toll, but we are going 
to handle this and move on from here."

James Crowell, 33, was hired July 25, 2005, as a narcotics investigator.

Lt. Jonathon Owenby, 30, was hired Dec. 11, 1998, and promoted to narcotics 
supervisor Oct. 21, 2005.

Tim Roberts, 29, was hired Oct. 6, 2000, and promoted to narcotics Aug. 12, 

Luke Williamson, 34, of North Augusta, was hired May 26, 2000, and promoted 
to narcotics March 20, 2007.

Brian Owens, 38, was hired Oct. 18, 2002. He was promoted to narcotics Oct. 
21, 2005.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D