Witnesses video on social media

Clinton DPS case against former coroner candidate posted to YouTube

Six witness statements related to James Hayes’ criminal charge filed by the Clinton Department of Public Safety now are on YouTube.

Hayes said today he did not post the statements to the social media site, and does not know who did. 

Hayes does have on his personal Facebook page, videos that he made related to the pending case against him. A video includes part of an interview he had with a law enforcement officer, but the video posted Tuesday is different - the 10-minute video is of witnesses talking in an interview setting with a law officer.

The video is posted as “what James Hayes did not want you to see.”

Hayes has been indicted by a grand jury on a charge of disseminating harmful material to a minor. The charge stems from a contributing to the delinquency of a minor charge filed against Hayes in August by Clinton authorities.

Clinton police seized his phone, Hayes said.

Through the legal discovery process, he has determined what information was taken off the phone by law enforcement, he said. In his Facebook video, Hayes alleges the Clinton police are investigating him because Hayes played what he describes as “a small role” in an Upstate TV station learning about an incident in which two Clinton officers broke the front door of a local residence and entered without a warrant.

It’s just the latest twist and turn in a years-long legal saga for Hayes. He was cleared of a gun charge brought by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office. That incident cost Hayes his business - a private ambulance company first located on Torrington Road and then relocated to Clinton. He tried to run for Laurens County Coroner, but was disqualified by a judge’s decision. Incumbent Coroner Nick Nichols, who won re-election in November, sued over Hayes’ qualifications and won - one of four similar legal cases brought by incumbent coroners statewide.

In November, Hayes was cleared by the State Law Enforcement Division of a potential extortion charge. The 13th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, called in to look at evidence in the case in place with the 8th Circuit office, judged there to be insufficient evidence to charge Hayes with a crime.

SLED investigated him on an allegation by a Greenwood woman that Hayes illegally obtained from her explicit “sexting” messages the woman shared with Laurens County Sheriff Ricky Chastain.

Hayes has said he is responsible for releasing to news media more than 6,000 messages between the woman and Chastain. Hayes said she gave him the messages through access to her iCloud account. The woman said Hayes promised her money, promised her a job under a new sheriff’s administration in Laurens County, and threatened harm to her family. Hayes and the woman had a meeting at a sno-cone stand in Greenwood to talk about the “sexting” messages.

The woman met with a SLED agent June 15 to discuss her April 24 interaction with Hayes. The “sexting” scandal became public April 28.

Tainted by a second major scandal in his 16 years as sheriff, Chastain wound up losing the June Republican primary to challenger Don Reynolds. Chastain backed the unsuccessful petition candidacy of his deputy Stephane Williams in the November General Election. Reynolds will be sworn in as Laurens County Sheriff on Jan. 3, 2017.

Chastain said he has called in SLED to conduct a full inventory of the Sheriff’s Office in advance of Reynolds assuming command of the department.

Hayes says without hesitation that he anonymously made public the “sexting” between the woman and Chastain. But he denies breaking any law to do so. He was interviewed by a SLED agent June 30.

Then later, the Clinton Department of Public Safety launched another investigation into Hayes’ activities. 

The allegation is this: on the night and scene of the fire at Dempsey’s pizza restaurant, Hayes showed a 16-year-old female a naked, male full-frontal image on his phone.

The new YouTube video has six witnesses saying that Hayes did that, but some witnesses say they chose not to look at the image Hayes was offering to show.

At the time of the initial allegation against him, Hayes said the case stemmed from an allegation he made about a Clinton police officer’s relationship with an underage female. 

Clinton authorities said the charge was investigated and found to be baseless.

Hayes plans to represent himself when the Clinton “harmful material” case comes to trial, and said through discovery he obtained video showing a state trusty cleaning in a Clinton law enforcement office where his phone is in plain view on a desk. 

Hayes said between unsecured evidence and the witness statements video now released on social media - with some witnesses saying they never saw a photo on his phone - prosecutors cannot sustain a case against him.

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