One of our readers read a story about shots being fired into a residence on Lambs Road in North Charleston. No one was hit, but NCPD ended up arresting Cleveland Bellinger for possession of marijuana.
Our reader did some research and discovered this wasn't Bellinger's first arrest. The reader forwarded a link to this news story from 3 November, 2011. It seems Bellinger was among a group of thugs arrested by the Lee County Sheriff's Department for trying to toss drugs and cell phones over the fences at Lee Correctional Institute. Isn't that an interesting coincidence?
We thought we had it bad here in the Lowcountry. In Lee County Bellinger was charged with possession of narcotics with intent to distribute and furnishing prisoners with contraband. He received a $5,000 bond on each charge.
Some brilliant solicitor or judge decided to remand the general sessions charge of furnishing contraband to prisoners down to a magistrate level court. Bellinger filed a request for a jury trial back in March. This complicates things a bit. If the magistrate level case goes first, whether or not he is found guilty his attorney can argue double jeopardy and have the drug distribution charge dismissed.
Now we see the idiocy of the courts that contributes to putting the public and our corrections officers in danger.
Apparently Judge Linda "10K" Lombard here in Charleston County didn't bother looking at his pending charges as she set bond on the 2nd offense marijuana possession at her usual $10,000.
This tells us Bellinger has an even more extensive criminal record. We checked Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester and didn't turn up anything else. Short of checking every county in South Carolina we won't be able to find out what that history contains. Unless, of course, some anonymous police officer, court clerk or secretary decides to e-mail us a hint about where to look. :)
Bellinger's co-defendants in the Lee County case have wrapped up their cases.
Bunnie Jean Hawkins pled guilty to the contraband charge and was sentenced to two years in prison and a $300 fine, suspended to the payment of the fine and one year of probation. The narcotics possession charge was dismissed.
Vance Lamar Fowler pled guilty to the narcotics possession charge. The contraband charge was dismissed. Fowler was sentenced to time served (8 days) and suspension of his driver's license.
Willie Lee Miles told authorities he was from Charleston County and homeless when he was arrested. His contraband charge was dismissed. He pled guilty to the possession charge and was sentenced to five years suspended on time served. We don't see any indication he made bond, so he spent four months in jail. Willie has an extensive criminal history in Charleston County consisting mainly of property crimes.
As you can see, no one in Lee County, other than the cops, thought these charges were very important. No wonder we have a contraband problem in our prisons.