WINNSBORO — The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division case investigating former Fairfield County Administrator Phil Hinely’s alleged viewing of pornography on county computers closed recently with no charges being filed.
Sixth Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield said pornographic images were found on the hard drive of Hinely’s county-issued computer.
However, a SLED forensic analysis determined that while the images were on the hard drive there was no evidence Hinely sent, or disseminated, the pornography to others.
Evidence of pornography dissemination by Hinely was needed for criminal charges to be filed.
In Barfield’s Oct. 20 letter to Lt. Michael C. Greene with SLED, he explained the South Carolina law dealing with offenses against morality and decency.
“According to section 16-15-305 of the Code of Laws of South Carolina, material must classify as ‘obscene under very detailed and specific definitions.’ The statute also requires the material be disseminated.
Subsection (A) (1) makes it unlawful if anyone ‘sells, delivers or provides or offers or agrees to sell, deliver, or provide’ obscenity and Subsection (A)(3) makes it unlawful if anyone ‘publishes, exhibits, or otherwise makes available anything obscene to any group or individual,’” Barfield said.
The Hinely investigation came after a June 27 request by Sen.r Creighton Coleman that SLED look into the matter after Coleman received information that Hinely might have used his public computer to send pornography. SLED agents seized the hard drive on June 28 from a UPS hub.
Prior to their visit, the county had arranged to send the hard drive to California for examination, but instead SLED had the shipment stopped and the hard drive was turned over for forensic analysis.
The statute gave no cause to pursue prosecution merely because pornography was found on Hinely’s computer hard drive. Last July, Hinely resigned one day after SLED seized his county issued computer hard drive. The resignation came in the face of mounting public criticism from residents and community members, many of whom attended county council meetings to voice outrage and displeasure with the situation.
Though Barfield’s legal opinions resulted in closing the case, Barfield’s letter did not address the questions of validity surrounding packets of photographs that were distributed to various individuals as well as to local media.
In subsection (F) of section 16-15-305 the law states, “It is unlawful for any person knowingly to create, buy, procure, or process obscene material with the purpose and intent of disseminating it.”
Therefore, regardless of motive, according to state law, it is illegal for anyone to knowingly disseminate obscenity.