Former clerk of court makes a brief appearance at courthouse

Former Beaufort County Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith made a brief return Friday morning to the Beaufort County Courthouse.

Smith, who resigned from office in July after being indicted on charges of embezzlement and misconduct in office, waited with more than 100 other criminal defendants in the courthouse's Jury Assembly Room to make her first appearance. Smith served eight years as the county clerk of court, maintaining records and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the courthouse.

One by one, assistant solicitors from 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone's office read the names of defendants in alphabetical order, asked them who their attorney was and provided them with their next court date.

For about an hour, Smith sat quietly and worked on an elaborate piece of embroidery before her name was called.

Smith stood up, introduced her defense lawyer, Beaufort attorney Mike Macloskie, and was given a Dec. 2 court date. The hearing lasted about 30 seconds.

Smith and Macloskie declined to comment after the hearing.

Stone said last week he required Smith to attend the hearing to avoid the perception she was being given preferential treatment.

S.C. Ethics Commission investigators allege Smith embezzled more than $23,500 from two public accounts to buy insurance policies for relatives and make payments on a home on Pawleys Island. The investigation is ongoing.

Smith appeared in a Lancaster County court Aug. 25 for an arraignment hearing, during which she pleaded not guilty to four counts of embezzlement of public funds and one count of misconduct in office.

Smith is out on $25,000 bail.

If convicted, Elizabeth Smith faces five to 10 years on each embezzlement charge and could only hold public office again if the money is repaid and she is approved by two-thirds of the General Assembly, according to state law.