Former Police Chief Admits Faking Death, Fleeing To Avoid Prison
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ A former city police chief has pleaded guilty to criminal contempt charges, admitting that he faked his death and fled to avoid going to jail for a misconduct in office conviction.
U.S. District Judge Clyde Hamilton said he will delay sentencing for Arthur Hess, 50, until a background report on Hess can be completed by federal investigators.
Hamilton told Hess he faces a possible fine or prison term for pleading guilty to disobeying a court order to remain in Columbia while on bond from his 1981 conviction.
″From what I know of the case at this point, my sentence would not include a fine of more than $25,000 or a prison term not to exceed five years,″ Hamilton told Hess, who has been in custody since his arrest.
Hess, who had been hired to straighten out problems with the police department, delivered the surprise plea Tuesday during what was to have been a pre-trial hearing.
The chief was arrested a year after taking the post and charged with accepting a bribe from a local businessman, but was acquitted of bribery and extortion charges.
He fled the city in June, four years after he was convicted on three counts of misconduct in office and one count of obstruction of justice in the case and was sentenced to three years in prison. One of the misconduct in office counts was later reversed by the state Supreme Court on grounds of double jeopardy.
Hess told Hamilton that he grew concerned last spring when he learned that his appeal was not being reviewed by U.S. District Judge Matthew Perry, the judge assigned to the case, but by a judge with ″a pretty tough reputation.″
″I felt I had no choice,″ Hess said of his flight to avoid prison. ″I’d be sent to prison for something I hadn’t done.″
Hess’ bloodied car was found June 7, abandoned in a Columbia shopping center near the real estate office where he worked. A car owned by co-worker Mary McEachern, who was reported missing at the same time, was found 10 days later in Augusta, Ga.
Hess and McEachern were captured by federal agents Jan. 26 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. They had been living on the outskirts of Tampa in a mobile home park under assumed names.
Ms. McEachern faces trial April 14 for allegedly aiding and abetting Hess’ contempt of court.