A former Lake City police sergeant found guilty of drug trafficking and extortion will appeal her 20-year federal sentence, according to federal court documents.
Shanita McKnight stood trial in federal court in Florence in October 2008 and was sentenced May 27.
About a month later, she filed documents pertaining to appealing her case to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Columbia attorney Joseph Henry, who represented Knight during her trial and sentencing, said in his client would be filing an affidavit of indigency and is requesting that counsel be appointed for her.
Transcripts of many of the objections made by Henry during the trial have been filed for use in federal appellate court.
Thomas M. Dawson and Lyle L. Yurko have been appointed as appellate defense attorneys in the case, according to court documents.
McKnight was convicted Oct. 21 of drug trafficking and extortion charges after a five-day federal trial. Per federal guidelines, she had to remain incarcerated until her sentencing.
McKnight was charged Aug. 9, 2005, with acceptance of money to conceal an offense involving a felony, misconduct in office, misprision of a felony and obstruction of justice.
The criminal affidavit accompanying the warrants alleged McKnight, during her eight years with the Lake City Police Department, tipped off drug dealers to police activities to help them elude arrest.
In addition, the affidavit indicated that McKnight was present during many drug transactions but never did anything about them and also that she was given money by drug dealers in exchange for information about law enforcement activity in the area.
McKnight and her aunt, Albergail McFadden, both of Lake City, were indicted June 26, 2007 on drug trafficking charges. McKnight also was charged with extortion for using her position as a police officer to “wrongfully obtain monies from other individuals.”
McFadden was sentenced Nov. 13 to 20 years in prison and 10 years supervised release by Wooten. U.S. District Court Judge Terry L. McFadden could have been ordered to pay a large fine, but he said he would not impose a fine in the case because she didn’t have the ability to pay.
McKnight was co-owner of 104 Samuel St., Lake City where a nightclub called Mamie Lou’s was located. Testimony established that Mamie Lou’s was operated by McFadden and was a well-known drug haven in Lake City where crack cocaine was sold and smoked, and prostitutes were available.
During her sentencing hearing McKnight told Wooten she isn’t a bad person.
“ ... I’m a good person,” a sobbing McKnight said. “I don’t care what these people say in this courtroom ... I was a good officer my family needs me and I need my family. I’ve lost everything I’ve worked hard for. I’m not the person they have made me out to be!”
TIMELINE OF LAKE CITY LARGE-SCALE CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION
Feb. 15, 2005 ... Lake City Police Lt. William Webb is arrested on federal drug charges of conspiracy with intent to distribute powder and/or crack cocaine as the result of an ongoing federal investigation into corruption and drug activity in the Lake City area.
June 29, 2005 ... Lake City police officer Maurice Ponteau and Sgt. Shanita McKnight and former Lake City police officer Merwyn Curt Brown have their state police certifications suspended by the S.C. Department of Public Safety Criminal Justice Academy after the academy reports that the officers failed polygraph tests they were given in connection with the same federal investigation.
July 4, 2005 ... Despite having his police certification pulled and being placed on administrative leave, Ponteau issues a traffic ticket to a local motorist. On the accompanying traffic collision report, Ponteau signs off as the investigating officer.
July 6, 2005 ... Then-Lake City Police Chief Kenneth McCaster is fired by Lake City Administrator George Simmons after just six months on the job. Simmons said he fired McCaster after the two had a disagreement about the way to handle the situation involving Ponteau and McKnight. “He (McCaster) wanted to terminate their employment on June 29th, and I wouldn’t let him,” Simmons said. “Because of that difference (in opinion), that’s why I’m here and he’s not.”
July 8, 2005 ... McCaster issues a public letter to the citizens of Lake City in which he explains he was fired after he reported the polygraph results for the three officers who were interviewed in connection with the Webb case. In the letter, McCaster makes many allegations about the workings of the city’s administration, calling Lake City “a thug-run city” and “a society of illegal administrative practices, sexual relations at work, political favors, nepotism, voter fraud, election fraud, intimidation, bad judicial (court practices), ticket fixing mixed with political pressure and favoritism and defiance and arrogance concerning other law enforcement agencies.”
July 22, 2005 ... The Morning News and WBTW News13 learn that Lake City Police Officer Elesto Bradford’s law enforcement certification has been suspended by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy since February. Police department officials say the suspension is the result of a paperwork glitch and is in no way connected to an ongoing investigation into corruption and illegal drug activity in the Lake City area. Bradford is suspended from duty without pay until the problem can be addressed. His certification is soon reinstated.
Aug. 8, 2005 ... McKnight is taken into custody by State Law Enforcement Division agents.
Aug. 9, 2005 ... McKnight is officially charged with acceptance of money to conceal an offense involving a felony, misconduct in office, misprision of a felony and obstruction of justice. The criminal affidavit accompanying the warrants alleges that McKnight, during her eight years with the Lake City Police Department, tipped off drug dealers to police activities to help them elude arrest. In addition, the affidavit indicates that McKnight was present during many drug transactions but never did anything about them and also that she was given money by drug dealers in exchange for information about law enforcement activity in the area. The charges against McKnight are still pending. The case has been turned over to the S.C. Attorney General’s office for prosecution, but no court date has been set.
Oct. 3, 2005 ... Webb pleads guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. His plea is part of an agreement with the U.S. government that requires him to cooperate fully with the federal investigation into allegations of corruption and illegal drug activities in the Lake City area.
Jan. 2, 2006 ... Phillip Grimsley, a Lake City native and regional supervisor of SLED’s vice unit, takes the job of Lake City police chief.
Jan. 11, 2006 ... Grimsley announces that he has resigned as Lake City police chief after less than a week on the job and returns to work as a SLED lieutenant.
Jan. 12, 2006 ... During a Lake City City Council meeting, Mayor LaRue Alford asks Lake City Police Capt. Billy Brown to serve as the town’s interim police chief. Brown agrees. He eventually is hired as the city’s permanent police chief.
Feb. 14, 2006 ... Brenda Reddix-Smalls, attorney for Lake City, tenders her resignation during a Lake City City Council meeting.
During that same meeting, Councilmen Lovith Anderson Jr., Jean Lee, Sondra Crosby-Fleming and Franklin McAllister vote to void Simmons’ contract. Alford, mayor pro tem Russ Martin and Gloria Tisdale vote against the action. Alford says a majority vote plus the mayor’s vote are required to void Simmons’ contract. It marks the third time since Simmons was hired as administrator in 1996 that members of the council have tried to remove him from the post. In December 1997, then-mayor pro tem Ralph Singletary fired Simmons, but Simmons was reinstated just days later by the council. Simmons’ contract was voided by a majority vote of council in July 2002, but Alford reinstated Simmons after a grievance hearing.
Feb. 16, 2006 ... U.S. District Judge Terry Wooten sentences Webb to 13 years and four months in prison in connection with illegal drug activity. The sentence is to be followed by five years’ supervised release, and Webb also must submit to drug testing and treatment directed by a probation officer.
April 19, 2006 ... Alford is arrested on charges of misconduct in office and obstruction of justice. He faces allegations that he had counterfeit money and allowed another person who had spent counterfeit money to hide in his Lake City business. The arrest is the result of a 14-month investigation by the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, the State Law Enforcement Division, the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service.
April 29, 2006 ... Alford turns himself in on a federal charge of dealing in counterfeit money. A federal magistrate judge grants a $50,000 personal recognizance bond for Alford’s release.
Gov. Mark Sanford suspends Alford as mayor of Lake City; mayor pro tem Martin begins serving as mayor.
May 9, 2006 ... Lake City City Council members vote, 4-2, on May 9 to terminate Simmons’ employment and give him six months’ compensation as required by his contract.
July 26, 2006 ... A federal magistrate judge grants more time for Alford and his lawyer to review evidence before Alford stands trial on the federal charge. Alford’s attorney, Lionel Lofton of Charleston, says the defense has not received all the evidence from all law enforcement agencies involved in the case.
July 27, 2006 ... Simmons is arrested by Florence County sheriff’s deputies on 19 counts of embezzlement of public funds and one count of misconduct in office. The charges stem from information gathered during an investigation by the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, SLED and the FBI. “The aforementioned investigation revealed that Simmons, while acting in his capacity as city administrator for Lake City, collected rental funds from tenants who resided in residential housing units owned by Lake City and subsequently converted these rental funds to his own use,” between January 2001 and June 2005, according to a press release issued by the sheriff’s office.
Aug. 7, 2006 … Simmons is booked at the Florence County Sheriff’s Office a second time. This time, he’s charged with 11 counts of embezzlement of public funds of $1,000 or less.
Simmons turns himself in and he was released hours after his arrest on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond, Florence County Sheriff’s Capt. Todd Tucker said.
Nov. 2, 2006 ... Simmons and former Lake City finance director Juanita Cunningham Bradley-Wragg are arrested. They face one count each of mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and program fraud, which relates to any federal funding taken for personal use, Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone said.
Simmons and Bradley were released after a U.S. magistrate set their unsecured bonds at $25,000 each. They must appear in federal court again Nov. 14 for a probable-cause hearing.
Nov. 7, 2006 ... Anderson is elected mayor of Lake City. Alford’s name is not on the ballot.
March 1, 2007 ... Assistant U.S. Attorney Debbie Barbier of the Columbia office added 21 charges to an original indictment against Simmons and Bradley-Wragg during an arraignment at the McMillan Federal Building in Florence. Barbier added one count of conspiracy, 10 counts of mail fraud and 10 counts of money laundering to their federal indictment. Neither Bradley-Wragg nor Simmons enter a plea.
March 5, 2007 ... Alford pleads guilty to possession of counterfeit currency in federal court. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000, plus a $100 special assessment.
May 30, 2007 ... Simmons and Bradley-Wragg finalize plea agreements at the McMillan Federal Building in Florence, avoiding a jury trial.
Simmons pleaded guilty to counts 1, 3 and 22 of the 40-count indictment. Count 1 and count 3 of the indictment charges that Simmons violated mail fraud statutes. Count 1 also charges him with conspiracy, stating that he knowingly and willfully conspired with another to take money from an organization receiving federal funds. Count 22 charges that he committed money laundering.
Simmons faces a $250,000 fine, five years in prison, and three years of supervised release for the conspiracy count. Possible penalties for money laundering include a maximum fine of $250,000 or not more than twice the criminally derived property, 10 years in prison and three years of supervised release. He would also be required to pay a special assessment of $100.
Bradley-Wragg pleaded guilty to counts 2 and 17 of the indictment. Count 2 charges that on or about May 30, 2001, to Nov. 22, 2002, she converted at least $5,000 of federal money given to the City of Lake City to someone else, ultimately costing city residents more than $40,000.
Count 17 states that on or about Oct. 3, 2002, she conducted a financial transaction that involved stolen funds.
Bradley-Wragg faces a maximum fine of $250,000, 10 years in prison and three years of supervised release for count 2 and a maximum fine of not more than $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction for count 17. She also faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a three years of supervised release, plus a special assessment of $100 for count 17.
June 1, 2007 ... Alford is sentenced to five months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release for possession of counterfeit currency. He remains free on bond and will report to prison in 60 days, U.S. District Judge Terry L. Wooten said.
June 4, 2007 ... Simmons and Bradley-Wragg are scheduled to review the terms of their plea agreements in federal court.
June 26, 2007 ... McKnight and her aunt, Albergail McFadden, 52, both of Lake City, are indicted on drug trafficking charges. McKnight also is charged with extortion for using her position as a police officer to “wrongfully obtain monies from other individuals,” according to a press release from then-U.S. Attorney Reginald I. Lloyd.
McKnight and McFadden face a maximum penalty of 10 years to life in prison and fines ranging from $4 million to $8 million.McKnight faces a maximum penalty of a $250,000 fine and/or 20 years in prison for the extortion charge.
Dec. 13, 2007 ... Bradley-Wragg is sentenced to sentenced to four months in prison, four months’ house arrest and three years’ supervised release on federal charges that she took public funds from the sale of Lake City-owned property for her personal use while she held office. She faced between eight and 14 months in prison, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Debbie Barbier of Columbia, who prosecuted the case.
March 19, 2008 ... U.S. District Court Judge Terry Wooten sentences Simmons to 51 months in prison, to run concurrently, followed by three years’ supervised release for each of the three counts to which Simmons pleaded guilty. Simmons also must pay $30,078.19 in restitution and a $300 special assessment, due immediately.
Oct. 7, 2008 ... Wes Unseld McFadden, Mazie McFadden and Carl “Buckwheat” McFadden Jr. are arrested and each charged with one count of using physical force, the threat of physical force, intimidation, retaliation, harassment and corruptly persuading a person with the intent to prevent testimony of that person in an official proceeding. Albergail McFadden is the mother of Wes McFadden and Mazie McFadden; all four McFaddens are related to Shanita McKnight.
Oct. 9, 2008 ... U.S. District Court Judge Thomas E. Rogers set a $20,000 surety bond for Carl McFadden and a $10,000 surety bond for Mazie McFadden. Wes Unseld McFadden was present during the proceeding but didn’t have a bond hearing. Rogers ordered the suspects be on home detention and wearing electronic monitoring devices. Carl and Mazie McFadden were also instructed not to speak with any victims or potential witnesses involved in their own cases or in that of McKnight.
Oct. 15, 2008 ... Shanita McKnight’s federal trial begins in Florence before U.S. District Court Judge Terry Wooten. Albergail McFadden, who already has pleaded guilty, was expected to testify against her niece but does not.
Oct. 21, 2008 ... Shanita McKnight is convicted of drug trafficking and extortion charges after a five-day federal trial. The jury of six men and six women deliberates for about three and a half hours before handing down the verdict. She faces a maximum penalty of 10 years to life in prison and fines ranging from $4 million to $8 million. She also faces a maximum penalty of a $250,000 fine and/or 20 years in prison for the extortion charge. Per federal guidelines, she must remain incarcerated until her sentencing.
Nov. 13, 2008 ... Albergail McFadden is sentenced to 20 years and 10 years supervised release by U.S. District Judge Terry L. Wooten. McFadden could have been ordered to pay a large fine, but Wooten said he would not impose a fine in the case because she didn’t have the ability to pay. She is, however, required to pay a special assessment fee of $100.
May 27 ... U.S. District Court Judge Terry L. Wooten sentences Shanita McKnight to 20 years in federal prison for each count, to run concurrently. McKnight also must serve five years of probation for the drug trafficking charge and three years of probation for extortion. Wooten ordered the probation sentences to run concurrently, as well.