SLED report details public safety director's interference in stepdaughter's arrest

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comJune 21, 2014 

Beaufort County will review its rules for booking inmates into the county detention center after a State Law Enforcement Division investigation of the center's public safety director.

However, county administrator Gary Kubic would not say if Phil Foot, whose duties include supervision of the Beaufort County Detention Center, might still face punishment. The S.C. Attorney General's Office, after reviewing the SLED report, said April 28 it will not pursue criminal charges against Foot.

Now, county officials will review the report of the monthlong investigation and determine what steps will be taken to prevent such interference from happening again, Kubic said.

SLED released the report to The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet last week.

Foot interfered with the arrest of his 21-year-old stepdaughter late last year, retrieving her in an exchange at the detention center with the Beaufort police officer who arrested her, according to SLED's report. Foot and his wife, Suezanne, drove away with his stepdaughter before she was booked.

Foot has led the detention center since 2005 and took over the public safety director's duties after William Winn left the post in 2011, deputy county administrator Bryan Hill said.

On Dec. 2, Foot was placed on paid administrative leave for one week. When he returned to work, he was not allowed to oversee the jail and used an office in the county government annex in the Beaufort Industrial Village to fulfill his other duties. Maj. Charles Allen, deputy director of the detention center, was put in charge of the jail until Foot was reinstated late last month.

In January, Foot's wife also was suspended from her job as the agent in charge of the Beaufort County office of the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services for a "possible legal matter," according to department spokesman Peter O'Boyle. She returned to work last month and is working again at the county office, he said Friday.

County attorney Josh Gruber said the county already has adopted a new detention center policy barring off-duty personnel from the "sally port" -- the secure entrance where officers deliver those under arrest to the jail. That policy was added immediately after county officials learned of Foot's actions during his stepdaughter's arrest, Gruber added.

More changes could be coming, but county officials have not yet reviewed the SLED report, Kubic said.

"(SLED) reviewed it from a criminal point of view, but I also need to know what the actual movements were during the incident," Kubic said. "I will be focusing in on the chronology set forth in the report and comparing that to the established protocol of the detention center to determine whether or not the rules were applied correctly or if they were ignored."

Attempts Thursday and Friday to reach Foot were unsuccessful.

"I am a father first," Foot told investigators days after the incident. "My main focus was on my daughter at the time, and not my job or who I am."

FIRST ARREST

Foot's stepdaughter, Lyndsay Danielle Cribb, 21, was arrested Nov. 30 near the scene of an alleged attempted shooting in downtown Beaufort.

However, she was not booked into the Beaufort County Detention Center for more than 24 hours, according to SLED's report.

According to a Beaufort Police Department report and jail records, Cribb was in the Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot on Bay Street when a man was arrested on an attempted-murder charge. The man was identified in the SLED report as Cribb's former boyfriend, and the charges against him were later dropped.

On the night of his arrest, police ordered Cribb to leave the scene.

A short time later, Beaufort police Officer Rebecca Whitney spotted Cribb yelling and sitting in an SUV at the end of the parking lot, according to Whitney's report of the incident filed with the Beaufort Police Department. Whitney, believing Cribb to be intoxicated, approached the vehicle.

Cribb continued shouting and was uncooperative, Whitney reported. Cribb also asked the officer if she knew her father was the detention center director.

Whitney said no, but suggested Cribb call Foot for a safe ride home.

Cribb, however, continued to shout, so Whitney arrested her for public drunkenness, according to the incident report.

On the way to the detention center, Cribb's mobile phone rang, and Whitney answered it at Cribb's request. It was Phil Foot.

What happened next is disputed in the SLED report.

Whitney contends she told Foot about Cribb's refusal to cooperate and that Cribb also refused to call Foot to come get her. Whitney also told investigators that Foot asked if his stepdaughter could be released to him outside of the detention center so he could "take care" of Cribb, which she assumed meant Foot wanted to book Cribb himself.

Foot gave SLED investigators a different account.

"(Whitney said) 'Well, technically I'm at (the detention center) and I have fulfilled my department's policy. I will wait for you; you can come to the sally port, and I will release her to you and you can do whatever you want,' " Foot stated. "I processed this as she was giving me another chance to get my daughter. I told her I would be there in a few minutes."

'I ASSUMED'

Security camera video indicates that just before 3 a.m. Nov. 30, Whitney arrived at the sally port with Cribb handcuffed in the back of her patrol car. About a half hour later, Foot and his wife arrived in his personal vehicle, a Honda sedan, both the SLED report and video indicate.

The footage, which does not include audio, indicates Whitney then took Cribb out of her patrol car, unlocked the handcuffs and released her to her mother. Whitney told investigators she removed the handcuffs -- a violation of Beaufort Police Department protocol, according to the department's manual -- because she thought the Foots were "in enough pain by seeing their daughter arrested."

Cribb got into the back of the Honda as Whitney and Suezanne Foot continued to talk; Whitney told investigators she was describing to Cribb's mother what transpired in the Downtown Marina parking lot.

Phil Foot remained in the car.

Both Whitney and the Foots told investigators they assumed everyone understood what would happen next.

Whitney told investigators she assumed Phil Foot would book Cribb himself. The video shows Whitney ending her conversation with Suezanne Foot, then turning to enter the jail.

Inside, Whitney retrieved a victim's notification form to offer Cribb, she told investigators.

Meanwhile, Cribb and her parents sat in the Honda sedan. A few minutes later, they drove away.

Whitney returns to her patrol car shortly after and also leaves. She told investigators that she noticed the Honda was no longer there, and she assumed Phil Foot had taken Cribb into the detention center through another entrance.

"I had already advised Mr. Foot ... Cribb had to go to jail, so I never brought the subject up (in the sally port)," she continued. "I never advised them that Cribb was free to leave."

However, Phil and Suezanne Foot told investigators they assumed Whitney was releasing Cribb to their custody. Phil Foot also told investigators he knew Cribb had not been booked.

"I just assumed she was allowed to get in my car," Phil Foot told investigators.

"Am I good to go?" Suezanne Foot asked Whitney, according to her statement to investigators. "She stated, 'Yes.' We both said 'bye.'"

SECOND ARREST

On the afternoon of Nov. 30, Beaufort police Deputy Chief Dale McDorman was informed by both Whitney and an on-duty officer that Cribb had not been entered into the jail log, according to the SLED report.

McDorman told investigators that he spoke with Whitney after she emailed him to ask about the incident, having failed to find Cribb when she double-checked jail records.

McDorman told investigators that he then called Phil Foot to explain that an arrest warrant would be issued for Cribb so she could be properly booked.

"Mr. Foot said something to the effect of, 'I messed up. Tell me what I need to do,' " McDorman wrote to investigators.

Foot also spoke with deputy county administrator Bryan Hill to explain the incident that afternoon, Hill said.

Hill, Foot and McDorman agreed Cribb could be booked the next morning, Dec. 1, according to the state report. The men's statements to investigators do not indicate why they agreed to wait until Sunday morning.

Attempts Friday to reach McDorman were unsuccessful.

Cribb was booked at 8:15 a.m. Dec. 1 and released less than an hour later, according to jail records. The ticket for public drunkenness was dismissed three weeks later, according to Municipal Court records.

Cribb is a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, according to the Marine Corps World Wide Locator in Quantico, Va.

After her release Dec. 1, Cribb told state investigators she was taken to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and "spoke with personnel about the incident." Attempts Thursday and Friday to reach a Marine Corps spokesman were unsuccessful.

A week after the incident, Cribb told investigators she believed Phil Foot feared she might get in trouble with the Marine Corps for the arrest. Suezanne Foot expressed similar concerns to Whitney in the sally port, telling Whitney that Cribb was trying to get embassy duty, according to Suezanne Foot's statements to investigators.

Reached Friday, Cribb declined to comment.

Attempts Friday to reach Suezanne Foot were unsuccessful.

THE AFTERMATH

On Dec. 2, county officials asked the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office to investigate the incident. Sheriff P.J. Tanner passed the case to SLED to avoid any conflict interest, he said earlier this year.

Phil Foot was then placed on administrative leave for a week and was removed from his duties overseeing the jail as state agents investigated, county officials said. Foot returned to his duties as jail director in mid-May, after the state Attorney General's Office declined to file criminal charges.

"We believe it's appropriate for Phil to be back in his position or he wouldn't be there," the county attorney said Friday.

Whitney faced "administrative action" after a Beaufort police review of the incident in December, but missed no work, Chief Matt Clancy said Thursday. He would not discuss details of the action. In January, Cpl. Hope Able said the department was not reviewing the incident.

Clancy said that, technically, Beaufort police protocol for transporting a prisoner was not violated because Whitney turned Cribb over to a detention center employee.

However, Beaufort police protocol states officers must sign the appropriate transfer of custody paperwork and pick up a booking sheet when the transfer is completed. A booking sheet was filed at some point, but it is not signed or dated, according to state investigation documents.

Attempts Friday to reach Whitney were unsuccessful.

"She's a good officer, has an excellent record, and she was put in an extremely difficult situation," Clancy said. "I think that she made the best decision she could, given the circumstances she had."

Whitney was hired by Beaufort police in November 2011. About a month earlier, she resigned from her position as a detective with the Bluffton Police Department in lieu of being fired, according to a status report she filed with the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy.

The Bluffton department cited Whitney for violations of its codes of general conduct, improper associations and neglect of duty, according to Bluffton police Maj. Joseph Manning. Details about the allegations were not immediately available Friday, Manning said. However, the violations did not constitute misconduct under the criminal justice academy rules, according to academy records.

The Beaufort Police Department is not reviewing its detention center transport protocol but will participate in the county's review if asked and has a copy of the SLED report, Clancy said.

"My only concern is the involvement of our officer," he said. "Her statements to investigators never changed, and when she realized that an irregularity had occurred, she took immediate steps to correct it, which brought the situation to light."

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

Related content: Beaufort County public safety director to oversee jail again, May 16, 2014

Beaufort County public safety director won't be charged, officials say, May 2, 2014

Beaufort County parole manager involved in 'possible legal matter' Jan. 31, 2014 SLED investigating Beaufort County public safety director, Jan. 17, 2014 Beaufort County public safety director placed on administrative leave, Dec. 11, 2013

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service