Several individuals in the State of South Carolina have civil violations that are being treated as criminal violations. This is despite the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office issuing an opinion to the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
On October 8, 2012, The Office of the South Carolina Attorney General sent a return letter to S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Chief Mark Keel.
This letter was an opinion given by the S.C. AG’s Office regarding a request from Chief Keel. The question was about placing individuals with civil violations on the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) listing.
This listing is an FBI listing that has been around since 1967 and is spread out across all law enforcement agencies across the country on local, tribal, state and federal levels. It is maintained by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS).
This listing is intended for criminal violations only. The listing includes suspected gang members, individuals reported missing such as children, sex offenders and many more types of suspected criminal violators or those convicted of criminal offenses.
On September 28, 2016, The Associated Press stated:
“The NCIC catalogs information that officers enter on sex offenders, immigration violators, suspected gang members, people with outstanding warrants and individuals reported missing, among others. Police use the system to locate fugitives, identify missing people and determine if a motorist they’ve stopped is driving a stolen car or is wanted elsewhere.”
The Opinion of South Carolina Attorney General’s Office
In the letter, S.C. Attorney General’s Office stated that in its opinion the NCIC was not intended for individuals with civil violations:
“The primary purpose of NCIC and the State’s Criminal Information and Communication System is to collect and disseminate “criminal history record information,” for criminal justice purposes, as defined by federal and SLED regulations. A civil contempt citation is not a matter that advances or relates to the enforcement of the criminal laws of this State. Therefore, it is the opinion of this Office that citations for civil contempt would not constitute “criminal history record information” for purposes of being entered into the State’s Criminal Information and Communication System or NCIC databases.” Read More: Click Here
Despite S.C. AG Office’s opinion, several S.C. Law Enforcement Agencies have been placing citizens on the NCIC listing for civil violations.
South Carolina Citizens Placed On NCIC For Civil Violations
Walter Scott didn’t have a criminal record. His only crime was missing child support payments. While some may say it is a horrible thing to miss child support payments, is it reasonable that this man was on a listing that is reserved for rapists, murderers, and terrorists? Is missing a child support payment the same as threatening to bomb a school?
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Clint Doran of Kershaw County, S.C. had criminal charges brought against him. Clint was found not guilty of all criminal charges. Yet, Mr. Doran ended up on a Federal List that is reserved for people with criminal convictions.
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The same would happen to 65-year-old Brenda Bryant whose only crime was not paying fees. Bryant sued the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) and the Babcock Center because her mentally disabled daughter Stephanie Bryant was raped and contracted an STD while in the care of the Babcock Center.
Then Richland County Solicitor Barney Giese refused to prosecute the men who Brenda says raped her daughter and gave Stephanie Bryant an STD.
Bryant achieved a landmark victory in the South Carolina Supreme Court. According to court documents, The Babcock Center claimed that it had “no duty of care” for Stephanie Bryant.
It appears the Babcock Center felt this way because of a black and white view of watching Stephanie Bryant either 100% of the time or none of the time. This was their view even though the Babcock Center was receiving Stephanie Bryant’s monthly social security benefits.
In other words, S.C. taxpayers paid staff at the Babcock Center to display negligence and allow a vulnerable mentally disabled woman to be raped and have a disease that she will live with for the rest of her life. Brenda Bryant will have to live with the fact that, according to the Lexington County Medical Center, a rape-kit confirmed signs of sexual assault upon her daughter.
Ever since she won the case, several South Carolina Judges slapped her with guardian-ad-litem fees, attorney fees and fines that she couldn’t pay as a woman living on a fixed income. A bench warrant was placed for Brenda Bryant for a civil violation of not paying fines and fees.
She was arrested in North Carolina and released. During her stay in North Carolina Brenda learned that she had been placed into the NCIC for civil violations and was treated like a violent offender.
“I just wanted to protect my daughter. I fought for her because she is everything to me. If you go against the state they’ll find a reason to put charges on you and put you into the NCIC,” Brenda said.
Brenda Bryant hasn’t been able to return to South Carolina in almost 9 years. If she returns she will be arrested. The State of South Carolina sincerely believes a 65-year-old woman with medical problems deserves to be on the same Federal listing as a terrorist.
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The History of the NCIC
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and International Association of Chiefs of Police worked with the U.S. Commerce Department on a project that would create and streamline a mass system of computers spanning across several U.S. cities and states. An FBI computer was the mother ship of information gathered from crime files and records.
This system, though new at the time, processed more than 2 million individual transactions in just its first year of operation.
Following the massive success of the NCIC’s intended purpose, Law Enforcement Agencies on State and Federal levels across the U.S. began entering criminal record information into the NCIC.
Hoover was known to dislike communists. He believed that communists were behind many of the Civil Rights movements of the time. This is why Hoover had informants planted into Civil Rights Legends such as Eldridge Cleaver, The Black Panther Party, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Civil Rights Movement. That informant was photographer Ernest Withers.
In helping to create the NCIC, Hoover would go on to prove just why such a listing even existing might not be the best for American Citizens and Freedom.
Quoted from News Week:
“Ernest Withers supported social justice, but his legacy is tangled by a secret association with the FBI. Like many of his generation, he was a patriot; he’d served in the Army during World War II and was disturbed by the anti-war movement of the 1960s. He was a man of his time, too, in his distrust of Communists, whom FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover believed was behind King’s civil rights movement and militant Black Power leaders like Eldridge Cleaver. Such feelings, Preston Lauterbach suggests in his new book, Bluff City: The Secret Life of Photographer Ernest Withers (W.W. Norton & Co., January 15), were behind the decision of an African-American photographer to become a well-compensated informant against black activists.
Hoover’s Memphis agents were tasked with monitoring local civil rights leaders, including the Reverend James Lawson, co-founder of the Committee on the Move to Equality (COME), which was committed to civil disobedience, and John B. Smith of the Invaders, a Black Power offshoot openly defiant of King’s philosophy of nonviolence. Because of his coverage of the movement, Withers was trusted and invited to local meetings. In turn, his photo studio on Beale Street was an unofficial Invaders hangout. He fed his findings to his FBI contact, William Lawrence.” Read More: Click Here
There is more context behind the history of the NCIC. 1960s America was a time of great American Triumph and a time of great Government spying.
This was a period where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., another black man like Walter Scott who didn’t have a criminal record, was shot and killed. Just like Mr. Scott, Dr. King was shot, not for anything criminal, but for something that most would consider to not elevate to the level of a terrorist.
In 1968 at a Chicago, Illinois Democratic National Convention, The Chicago Seven, were arrested and charged by the U.S. Federal Government with offenses including, but not limited to, conspiracy and inciting to riot. The Chicago Seven were student protestors who utilized their First Amendment Right to protest against the U.S. Government’s involvement in wars, social issues, and general concerns from the students. All charges and convictions against the Chicago Seven were overturned as the charges were widely seen by the U.S. Public and U.S. Courts as unreasonable and unfounded.
On Thursday, February 1, 1968, Echol Cole and Robert Walker were crushed to death in a garbage compactor. Their deaths, along with years of poor work conditions and poor pay, sparked the Memphis Sanitation Strike. The strike joined up with Dr. King for mutual support. Documents and eyewitness reports suggest that at that time the FBI heavily monitored the strike and increased their activities in 1968.
The fact of the matter is that during this time the U.S. Government appeared to have had an interest in keeping tabs on those who spoke about certain issues, pushed certain movements and, largely, were non-violent.
If the 60s gave us the NCIC and during that time the U.S. Government was known to pursue non-violent offenders, how is it reasonable to allow the NCIC to be used for non-violent people in 2020? More than 50 years since the creation of the NCIC isn’t enough time to show why federal listings being used for inappropriate purposes is dangerous.