CHARLESTON – A man once charged with upholding the law and overseeing the safety of students and employees at South Carolina State University admitted on Thursday that he’s guilty of conspiring to extort money.
Michael Bartley, who served as chief of police at the university until February 2012, appeared in federal court in Charleston.
He pleaded guilty to charges that he conspired to help Board Chairman Jonathan Pinson and other individuals from Columbia and Georgia get the university to purchase a property known as Sportsman’s Retreat at 499 Wild Hearts Road in eastern Orangeburg County. Pinson has pleaded not guilty in the case.
Other indictments and charges are expected in connection with the ongoing investigation, U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said in a release.
In return for helping sell the property, which is owned by a Florida real estate developer, Bartley was to receive some $30,000 in cash and an all-terrain vehicle.
However, when approached by federal officials, Bartley immediately agreed to cooperate with them, and he did it wholeheartedly, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Moore.
He was the only individual questioned by federal agents who did so, and that may lighten his sentence, which could be as long as five years in jail, Moore said.
“We have no idea what sentence will ultimately be imposed,” he said. “That is obviously up to the court.”
But the U.S. Attorney’s Office has agreed to ask the court to consider Bartley’s cooperation when sentencing him, Moore said.
According to an indictment, Bartley was involved in the conspiracy at least as early as 2010 and into 2011. While there is other evidence in the case, most of it came from a phone tap on Pinson’s phone from July through September 2011, Moore said.
His office gained authorization to put the tap on Pinson’s phone after receiving certain information about Pinson’s activities, Moore said.
According to the indictment, Bartley and Pinson used cell phones to discuss Bartley’s role in helping to arrange the purchase on Oct. 13 in return for kickbacks from the owner of the property. The owner has not been charged.
The two also allegedly discussed the issue by cellular phone on Oct. 17 and Nov. 1.
According to Moore, Bartley also agreed to show the property to individuals from the university in an effort to sell it.
Bartley was one of eight individuals fired from the university in January 2012 amid an internal investigation into criminal and unethical activities at S.C. State. That investigation was carried out by Reginald Lloyd, former head of the State Law Enforcement Division and also a former South Carolina U.S. attorney.
Lloyd has said not everyone fired was necessarily guilty of criminal charges.
Lloyd’s internal investigation was put on hold by Dr. John Corbitt, then-acting board chairman, at the end of March 2012.
Following Thursday’s hearing, Moore reported that the federal investigation is ongoing.
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