Greenville Co. sheriff responds to sexual assault lawsuit: I had - FOX Carolina 21

Greenville Co. sheriff responds to sexual assault lawsuit: I had a consensual encounter

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Sheriff Will Lewis gives statement on lawsuit (Oct. 19, 2017/FOX Carolina) Sheriff Will Lewis gives statement on lawsuit (Oct. 19, 2017/FOX Carolina)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

On Thursday, Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis responded to a lawsuit filed in Greenville County on Monday accusing him of sexual harassment, sexual assault and violations of Civil Rights. 

In the court documents, the plaintiff, Savanah Nabors, says she was hired by Sheriff Lewis shortly after he took office.  The lawsuit says her job was to follow the Sheriff everywhere he went, to record his meetings and contribute an outsider’s perspective on decision making. The court documents claim sexual harassment began almost immediately and increased over time.  

In a press conference on Thursday, Lewis said he had a consensual encounter outside of his marriage. He said the incident was deeply regrettable, but denied all allegations of criminal misconduct.

"I do want to be clear about one thing," Lewis said. "The allegations of rape and stalking, harassment - that's completely, 100 percent false."

Lewis asked for forgiveness from his deputies and privacy for his family during this time.

Specific details of the accusations against Lewis are detailed in the documents, some of which are quoted below from the lawsuit:

“…in early January 2017, the Sheriff gave the Plaintiff a new

county car. When the Plaintiff stated that she felt guilty about having a new car while some

employees (even command staff) were driving cars with over 200,000 miles on them, he said it is

just another perk of the Plaintiff’s job: ‘The best gets the best.’“

“On February 3, 2017, on a day that the Sheriff knew the Plaintiff’s then-husband

was out of town for work, the Sheriff sent a text to the Plaintiff stating, “How is the Moscato and

bachelor?”

“The Plaintiff separated from her husband on February 15, 2017, for reasons

unrelated to the Defendant. On February 16, 2017, the Plaintiff told the Sheriff that she was

separating from her husband. The Sheriff subsequently asked for the Plaintiff to ride in his car

with him to the Greenville Hospital (his dad was in the hospital and he was going to visit him) to

explain what was going on. The Sheriff asked many specific, personal questions regarding the

reasons for the separation. During the conversation, the Sheriff went into great detail about what

a “great body” the Plaintiff had and suggested that the Plaintiff’s husband was “stupid” for not

fully appreciating same. The Sheriff indicated that if he was 22 again, he would be “all over that”

because the Plaintiff was the “full package” - she wasn’t just cute, she was smart and could carry

on an intellectual conversation. The Sheriff also suggested he could put her in touch with some

great divorce attorneys.”

“Also during various trips in the car in February of 2017, the Sheriff would ask the

Plaintiff personal and sexual questions about her husband, such as how often they had sex, whether

the Plaintiff ever wore anything special for the husband, how long the sex would be, whether they

used toys, and various other areas of inquiry into the specifics of the sexual relationship between

her and the husband from which she was separated. The Sheriff explained that he considered the

Plaintiff to be his best friend, even though she was 20 years younger, and that he felt like he could

talk to her about anything. During this same time frame, the documents state that the Sheriff routinely made comments to

the Plaintiff that made her uncomfortable, such as:

a. "You look really cute today"

b. "Those pants suit your figure"

c. "You've got a really cute figure."

d. "I can really tell you've been working out.”

The court documents also include accusations involving a trip to Charlotte in March 2017.

The lawsuit claims that, after a night out, the Sheriff said he needed to go back to the plaintiff’s hotel room to get a bottle of liquor that he had put in her bag. The court documents claim that Sheriff Lewis then poured a drink for himself and the plaintiff and sat on the couch. The lawsuit claims Sheriff Lewis then kissed the plaintiff and that she told him that was a bad idea.  The following sections from the court documents describe what the plaintiff claims happened next:

“The Plaintiff originally could not recall anything before the following morning.

However, she subsequently regained some memory of the event, and now remembers two parts of

the subsequent events. The Plaintiff remembers regaining consciousness when the Sheriff was

on top of her, having sex with her. It took the Plaintiff a second to realize what was happening and

she had no idea how long it had gone on. The Sheriff asked the Plaintiff if she was ready for him

to “finish,” and the Plaintiff said yes. The Sheriff then giggled, making a joke about how long

he could “last,” and added that he was sure the Plaintiff was not used to that. The Plaintiff then

lost consciousness again.

The Plaintiff’s next memory is waking up at 5 am to find the Sheriff still in the

Plaintiff’s bed. The Sheriff suggested they should go to his room and sleep. The Plaintiff does not           

remember walking to the Sheriff’s room, but her next memory was waking up to daylight in the

Sheriff’s room. The Sheriff then leaned over the chair in his living room area and asked the

Plaintiff to come to him. The Plaintiff felt awkward, like a child. The Sheriff tried to kiss the

Plaintiff and she turned her head, such that the Sheriff ended up kissing her cheek. The Sheriff

said, “I just wanted to make sure we were alright.” Without responding, the Plaintiff returned to

her room.”

The court documents claim that the plaintiff did not drink enough alcohol to lose consciousness, “leading her to believe that the liquor drink in her hotel room contained some kind of drug."

The lawsuit claims that, later in March, after an event at a restaurant in Greenville, the Sheriff tried to “pressure the plaintiff into drinking faster and more.”  After the event ended, the lawsuit claims the plaintiff “refused to go anywhere else with the Sheriff” and that he became angry.  The court documents claim that, starting the next day, “the Sheriff began treating the plaintiff terribly at work”.  

In April 2017, the lawsuit says the plaintiff began recording conversations with Sheriff Lewis. Eleven of the recordings are included as part of the lawsuit.  The lawsuit claims that the plaintiff reported the Sheriff’s actions, along with the recordings, to multiple employees at the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.  The lawsuit claims that the Sheriff found out about the reports and called the plaintiff. The lawsuit says that, when she refused to rekindle the “friendship” with the Sheriff, he suggested she should no longer work at the sheriff’s office. The lawsuit claims that the plaintiff “was eventually told to put in her two weeks’ notice.”  The court document states that the plaintiff put in her two weeks’ notice on April 24 and claims that Sheriff Lewis told her to cease employment immediately, rather than work through the notice period. The lawsuit claims that Sheriff Lewis called her the next day, on April 25, to beg her to come back to work. The court documents state that, in response, the plaintiff sent an email on April 26 asking Sheriff Lewis to cease contact with her.   The lawsuit states, “The Defendants terminated the Plaintiff because Plaintiff refused to tolerate sexual advances by the Sheriff.”  It goes on to say, “The termination of the Plaintiff was in retaliation for the Plaintiff’s actions/resistance/refusals protected by public policy.”

The lawsuit also spells out a series of accusations against Greenville County and the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, including accusations that the county does not properly hire personnel, does not properly supervise personnel, fails to properly investigate complaints, has no policy “that would lead to the discovery of violent actions by its employees and prevent the same from occurring”, failed to “implement adequate security or safety measures designed to prevent or substantially reduce the likelihood that the Plaintiff or others similarly situated would be subjected to the acts of harassment, assault, and/or battery” and created “an environment in which the above-referenced officers were permitted to prey on the vulnerability of those under their control”.  The lawsuit claims that the actions of Sheriff Lewis violated the plaintiff’s rights under the fourth, eighth and fourteenth Constitutional amendments.

County Administrator Joe Kernell is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.  The lawsuit states that, “Kernell was the final policymaker for Greenville County regarding approval of out of town trips, whether drinking would be allowed at out of town work trips, and as to how County funds could be used by the Sheriff for matters outside of standard law enforcement activities.” We reached out to Joe Kernell’s office for a response and received the following statement: “Once the County has been officially served with the lawsuit, we will review and file an appropriate answer with the court.”

In addition, the lawsuit lists “John Does”, who are described as various individuals employed by Greenville County and the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, as defendants in the suit. The lawsuit claims that the John Does were responsible for duties such as hiring, training and supervising.  The documents claim that the various individuals did not respond to “prior misconduct of the Sheriff” and failed to protect the plaintiff “from the specific and known risk of harm posed by the Sheriff”.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, statutory damages, attorney’s fees and other relief.

Lewis said although the affair was a "moral failure," the incident was consensual and allegations accusing him of criminal actions in the lawsuit were false.

"Again, I need to be clear, guys," Lewis said. "There is zero validity to any criminal allegations. Rape, harassment, drugging, anything. Nothing. And I just want to make sure you guys understand that."

Kyle White, an attorney for Nabors, issued the following statement after Lewis's press conference:

We have faith in and respect the civil litigation process and we will not comment beyond the pleadings at this time. But we stand by the allegations of the pleadings.

The lawsuit comes about six weeks after the plaintiff, Savanah Nabors, wrote a blog post detailing the accusations against the Sheriff.  At the time when the blog post was written, the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office released this statement to FOX Carolina: “The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office was made aware of online allegations yesterday. We immediately contacted SLED and demanded an investigation into this matter. This will serve as our only comment until the investigation is concluded.”   SLED confirmed to FOX Carolina that they had received a request to investigate, saying only “Yes-we have received a request and the request is under review.”

In response to the lawsuit, Greenville County’s general counsel released this statement, “Due to an ongoing SLED investigation, The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office will not comment on this matter at this time. The Sheriff’s office will respond regarding the veracity of these allegations subsequent to the investigation’s conclusion.”

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division confirmed on Tuesday its investigation into the case was "open and active."

Note: FOX Carolina does not typically identify plaintiffs in lawsuits that involve accusations of sexual assault. However, Savanah Nabors wrote a public blog post detailing her accusations against the Sheriff and in it, she identified herself.  

Below is the full text of the lawsuit: 

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