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Former SC police chief sentenced after plea agreement

Richard Combs in court in Jan., 2015. (Source: WCSC) Richard Combs in court in Jan., 2015. (Source: WCSC)
ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WCSC) -

A judge sentenced the former Eutawville police chief charged in the 2011 shooting death of an unarmed man after a guilty plea to a misconduct in office charge.

Richard Combs was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the sentence was suspended to five years probation and one year of home detention.

Combs was charged with murder in the death of Bernard Bailey, but prosecutors agreed to drop the murder charge against him after he agreed to a guilty plea on the misconduct in office charge.

A deadlocked jury prompted a mistrial in January, the second time a trial ended in that manner. First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe told the court Tuesday the jury in Combs' first trial voted 9-3 in favor of a guilty verdict. But in the second trial, the jury voted was evenly split among three options, with four voting that he was guilty of murder, four voting he was guilty of involuntary manslaughter and the remaining four voting not guilty.

Pascoe told the court he planned to try Combs a third time on Oct. 26 if a plea agreement was not reached.

"If we tried this case five more times we would have five more mistrials," attorney Wally Fayssoux, who represents Combs, said.

Pascoe said Bailey's family agreed to Combs' misconduct in office plea.

Bailey's family spoke in Tuesday's hearing about him.

"Let justice prevail, that's all I ask. That's all I ask," Bailey's brother, William Bailey, Sr., told the court. "We will go on because God gives us the strength."

Hours before the mistrial was declared at 2 a.m. on Jan. 13, Judge Edgar Dickson issued an Allen Charge, which is an instruction to the jury to continue deliberating in an attempt to break the deadlock and reach a verdict, but the jury was still unable to agree. In order to prove murder, the state had to show that Combs killed Bailey with "malice or forethought." 

Combs told jurors he was scared for his life after he got stuck in the door of Bailey's truck as the vehicle was moving which led to the May 2, 2011 shooting. Authorities said Combs was trying to serve an obstruction of justice warrant on Bailey in connection with a traffic ticket he gave to Bailey's daughter. 

Combs' lawyers said he shot Bailey in self defense because he feared Bailey would run him over with his truck. 

Prosecutors said it was murder because Bailey had stopped his truck and had his hands up. 

First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe said at the time of the mistrial he had not yet made a decision on whether his office would retry Combs.

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