Former Clerk of Court to appear in Lancaster County court next week

Former Beaufort County Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith will appear in court next week for the first time since her indictment by a Beaufort County grand jury last month for allegedly embezzling more than $23,500 from public accounts.

Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said an arraignment hearing -- a proceeding that is expected to serve as Smith's bond hearing and an opportunity for her to enter a plea -- is set for Tuesday in a Lancaster County courtroom. Sixth Circuit Court Judge Brooks Goldsmith of Lancaster was appointed by S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal to hear the case, which Stone will prosecute.

"I know that a lot of people wanted to see this happen as soon as possible, and this is as soon as possible," Stone said Wednesday.

A Beaufort County grand jury indicted Smith on July 30 on charges of embezzling more than $23,500 from two public accounts to buy insurance policies for family members and make payments on a home on Pawleys Island. Smith faxed a letter of resignation to Gov. Mark Sanford just minutes before Stone announced the indictments.

Smith was first elected Clerk of Court, a position that pays $74,138 a year, in 2000 and was re-elected to a third term in November.

Sanford later tapped Jeri Ann Roseneau of Beaufort to serve as the county's interim clerk of court.

Smith was not arrested or booked into the Beaufort County Detention Center following the indictments in accordance with state law, Stone said. She will be booked into the Beaufort County Detention Center after her arraignment next week.

"The statute is pretty clear that the (S.C.) Ethics Commission presents their findings to the prosecutor for presentation to the Grand Jury," he said. "I didn't think I had any wiggle room. It is not an unusual procedure. This is the way the statute reads to me."

Stone said Goldsmith will set Smith's bond Tuesday, at which time the former clerk will return to Beaufort to turn herself into local police.

"We've bypassed the magistrate process," Stone said. "When someone is arrested, there is a preliminary hearing and a probable-cause hearing, and we're not having any of that. (Smith) will be arraigned, have bond set and she'll be served the indictments. After this hearing, this indictment will be ready for trial."

Attempts to reach Smith and her attorney, Mike Macloskie of Beaufort, on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

She faces five to 10 years in prison on each count of embezzlement if convicted, according to state law.

If convicted of the embezzlement charges, Smith could hold public office again only if she receives approval to do so from two-thirds of the General Assembly and repays the money.