A former tow-truck driver charged in a Christmas Eve 2010 shooting death in Bluffton must continue to wear an electronic tracking device on his ankle, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Preston Oates' lawyer, Jared Newman, asked the court at the hearing Wednesday to allow Oates to remove the device that tracks his movements, required as part of his bond deal.
Judge Deadra L. Jefferson denied the request.
She said the electronic monitor was an "appropriate mechanism (that) has been fashioned for both the client and the community."
Oates is accused of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of 34-year-old Carlos Olivera. Oates was released from the Beaufort County Detention Center on Aug. 31, 2011, about eight months after his arrest.
After Wednesday's hearing, Oates said he respects the judge's decision.
"I have got nothing to hide and nowhere to go," Oates said. "I just want this all to be done; the wheels of justice grind slowly, and all parties are suffering."
'FAIR TO BOTH SIDES'
A judge ruled at a hearing in November that Oates should be put under electronic surveillance but be allowed to get a job while free on bond. The judge also ruled that Oates could ask the court to reconsider the monitoring after 120 days.
After 186 days, on May 31, Newman filed the request for the bond modification. At the hearing Wednesday, he argued that the device made it difficult for Oates to sustain meaningful employment and that its cost is a strain. Oates is charged about $260 a month for the monitoring, Newman said.
Solicitor Duffie Stone objected to removing Oates' monitor.
"I believe, your honor, that Oates needs supervision," said Stone, solicitor of the 14th Judicial Circuit. "We have gone out of our way to have his bond revoked, so we think this is reasonable."
Nelson Olivera, the victim's brother, also spoke during the hearing and asked the judge "not to give (Oates) more privilege than he already has." He was one of several Olivera family members present.
After the hearing, Olivera said he felt a sense of relief that Oates will still be monitored.
"Like the judge said, it is fair to society and fair to both sides," Olivera said.
In making her decision, Jefferson said the aim of the court was to protect the community and evaluate the risk of flight, and she had "not heard enough to warrant a modification in the bond conditions."
Jefferson made no changes to the bond deal, and Oates can again ask the court to reconsider the monitoring in another 120 days, which began Wednesday.
THE NOVEMBER HEARING
The Solicitor's Office had asked the judge during the November hearing to revoke Oates' bond while he awaits trial, arguing Oates had not complied with the terms of his release. At the time, he was to be confined to his father's house, except to receive medical treatment or meet with his lawyers. He also was required to check in with a bail bondsman each week.
The Solicitor's Office said Oates was tied to a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office libel and slander investigation, which involved a fake dating-website profile of Sheriff P.J. Tanner.
Deputy Solicitor Sean Thornton also presented phone records of a cellphone number Oates listed as his primary contact number that showed calls had been made from locations other than his father's home.
Paul Oates, Oates' father, said his son doesn't have a phone and that the phone belonged to him. He also said the out-of-area calls were made by him.
On the night Carlos Olivera was killed, he and Preston Oates argued after the tow-truck driver placed a wheel boot on Olivera's minivan.
According to Beaufort County Sheriff's Office reports, both men were armed, but Olivera never fired his weapon. Oates shot Olivera six times, the report said.
Oates' lawyers say he acted in self defense.
The prosecution argues that Olivera posed no threat.
Oates has raised the state's Castle Doctrine, which protects from prosecution those who are defending themselves or others from intruders in their homes, workplaces or vehicles.
In March 2012, a Circuit Court judge ruled that Oates' charge would not be dismissed under that doctrine. Newman appealed to the S.C. Court of Appeals.
There is no timetable for a judgment, but Jefferson said 18 months is an average time for an appeal. Oates cannot be tried for manslaughter until his appeal is settled, and then only if the court rules that the Castle Doctrine does not apply, Stone said Wednesday.
Oates' lawyers can immediately appeal to the S.C. Supreme Court if the Appeals Court rules against him. Stone said the Attorney General's Office also can appeal if the Appeals Court rules with Oates.
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.
- Bond conditions for Bluffton tow-truck driver charged with manslaughter to be revisited, July 29, 2013
- Oates placed on electronic monitoring, allowed to work, Nov. 26, 2012
- Fatal tow truck shooting case still pending, Sept. 13, 2012
- Judge upholds decision to allow Oates case to proceed to trial, Mar. 13, 2012
- Suspect in Bluffton Christmas Eve fatal shooting freed on bond, Aug. 31, 2011