Sentencing hearing begins for former sheriff

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Prosecutors say former Lee County Sheriff E.J. Melvin should spend 30 years in jail for taking money to keep drug dealers out of trouble.

The sentence would be more than a decade longer than the roughly 15 to 19 years recommended in a sentencing report by federal probation officials. Melvin's attorney asked for a 3-year prison term, while a judge ruled the federal minimum is 10 years.

Melvin's sentencing hearing began Thursday with prosecutors calling drug dealers who testified against Melvin at trial. They are trying to prove Melvin was responsible for more than 33 pounds of cocaine entering his county, which would increase his potential sentence.

Melvin maintains his innocence, and his lawyer says he is not directly responsible for the drugs.

Melvin should learn his sentence Friday.

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