BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) - After deliberating for just 30 minutes, a jury found former Beaufort County Clerk Elizabeth Smith guilty of misconduct in office and embezzling more than $23,000 from two public accounts in the clerk's office.
"She had access to a number of the checkbooks all for the purpose of the people of Beaufort County, county check books," said 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone. "In 2006 she wrote a series of checks for insurance policies on her sister, insurance policies on her brother-in-law."
Solicitor Duffie Stone said that was just the beginning. During the trial the state called a number of witnesses to the stand, showing evidence of each of the checks Smith wrote not only for the life insurance policies but for a million dollar family vacation home on Pawley's Island. One of Smith's former employees, Janice Young, testified Smith confessed writing some of the checks to her.
"When she told me, I said I don't' think you can do that, she said, Yes I can it's a clerk of court trust account,' and I still said, 'I don't think you should do that,'" said Young. "I suggest you give the money back in that account immediately.
Young also told the jury Smith fired her after she made the bank statements for those accounts available to county officials on a shared computer folder and when the Ethics Commission began investigating she supplied information.
"I felt I was betraying her but I knew what she did was wrong," said Young as she sobbed on the stand. "But at that time, she had justified it in her mind. I think she still justifies it. I think she honestly believes it's okay."
Smith's attorney did not put up a defense, but emphasized to the jury that Smith paid back the money. Solicitor Stone, however, made it clear, what she did was against the law.
Stone says the case was not amount the money but about the trust of public officials.
Smith will serve five years probation and 200 hours of community service.