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Who Will Replace Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr.? 2 Candidates Who Want Your Vote…

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   Bill Weeks and R. Jackson Cooper are running in the Republican primary on June 9 for Second Circuit Solicitor, whose office prosecutes criminal cases in Aiken, Barnwell and Bamberg counties. The winner will replace Solicitor J. Strom Thurmond, who is not seeking re-election.

We gave both candidates the same five questions. Their answers are below.

BILL WEEKS   

   The Jail Report: What are your three top goals if elected as Solicitor?

   Weeks: My goals as solicitor are very simple. I will continue to try complex cases in our circuit, as I have done my entire career. Our office will seek to be the number 1 office in the state in convictions, guilty pleas and efficiency. I will focus on the increasing number of violent cases by working closely with my law enforcement agencies. Most of these cases are drug and gang related.

   We will continue to prosecute drug cases strongly.  i will push for strong sentencing for the convictions and pleas in these cases.

   The Jail Report: How would you differ from Solicitor J. Strom Thurmond?

   Weeks: Solicitor Thurmond and I have had very similar goals during his 12 years as the head of our office. We have faced increasing numbers of criminals and less court time to process the cases, while remaining one of the top circuits in the state in resolving cases in an efficient and timely manner. We have put together a great group of experienced young lawyers and they will help me achieve the goal of a rank of number 1.  I will use my 25 years experience with our courts to keep moving our cases. I am an aggressive, experienced prosecutor, respected by the judges. Under my role as Solicitor, we will continue to have that reputation.

   The Jail Report: We have heard many local residents complain that repeat offenders are slapped on the wrist and re-released, or not prosecuted at all. Some even complain that deputies make arrests and aren’t supported when it goes to court. What would you say to those critics?

   Weeks: The Office of the Solicitor is always the target of disgruntled people. The vast majority of cases in our office are handled in a manner that the victims and law enforcement approve. I am always available to talk with victims and law enforcement about any case. I will continue to keep that “open door” policy.

   The Jail Report: Why are you better than your challenger for this job?

   Weeks: I will stand on my record as an honest, aggressive experienced prosecutor for our circuit.  Judges, law enforcement, lawyers and citizens who have known, watched and followed my career have endorsed me for this office. Experience matters!”

   The Jail Report: Please provide a brief summary of your background and qualifications.

   Weeks: Bill is a lifelong resident of the Second Circuit. His early childhood was spent in the Beech Island and Jackson communities. He and his wife Amy Jo Weeks have lived and raised their two special children in Aiken for the last 30 years.

   A graduate of Jackson High School in 1974 as the valedictorian of his class, Bill attended the University of South Carolina – Aiken campus from 1974 through 1978, where he earned a degree in Political Science.

   His education continued at the University of South Carolina Law school where he graduated with a Juris Doctor Degree in 1981.

   Bill earned numerous academic honors and athletic awards during his years at USCA.  The most special awards included having his #40 jersey retired and having the cities of Aiken and Jackson declare special days as “Bill Weeks Day.”  He was honored to be selected in the inaugural class for the USCA Hall of Fame in 2007.

   Bill began his legal career as a law clerk for the Honorable Ralph King Anderson, Jr.  Bill was hired by Solicitor Robert J. Harte in 1981 to begin a legal career in prosecution that totals 25 years to date. As a deputy solicitor for “Bob” Harte, Bill prosecuted hundreds of adults and juveniles in the Second Circuit.

   His legal career moved to private law practice for 10 years with Bill becoming a partner in the law firm of Johnson, Johnson, Maxwell, Whittle, Snelgrove and Weeks. He worked for those years (from ’85 to ’95) with legendary attorneys, including B. Henderson Johnson. His private practice career led him to start his own successful law practice until 1999, when he decided to return to his true legal passion as a prosecutor.

   Bill was hired as a Senior Deputy Solicitor for the Second Judicial Circuit by Solicitor Barbara R. Morgan. After Morgan’s retirement in 2008, he has continued to this day as the Senior Deputy Solicitor for Solicitor J. Strom Thurmond. In addition to managing a full and complex caseload, Bill shoulders many of the administrative tasks, including training of the new lawyers.

    Former United States Attorney and current Second Circuit Solicitor J. Strom Thurmond, Jr. said, “I’ve worked side by side with Bill Weeks for more than 20 years. I’ve watched him handle the most complex cases in the office with skill and integrity, serve as a mentor to young lawyers, and prosecute successfully countless violent criminals. He’s one of the best prosecutors I’ve ever seen.”

   He has 39 years and counting as a trial lawyer. Bill has prosecuted well over 8,000 warrants in the last 20 years in all of the counties in the circuit.

   Bill has had hundreds of trials, thousands of guilty pleas, and has supervised the running of the hundreds of terms of circuit court in Aiken, Barnwell, and Bamberg counties in his prosecution career.

   “As solicitor, I will continue to vigorously prosecute the growing number of violent criminals, drug dealers and crimes against women and children. My 39 years in the trial courts of this state make me extremely qualified for this job as the chief prosecutor in our circuit.”

   He was recognized by the 16 elected solicitors in this state with his selection for the prestigious Ernest F. Hollings Award in 2009 for Excellence in Prosecution. During his prosecution career, Bill is very proud of teaching at the prosecution bootcamp for the last decade, where he has assisted in teaching hundreds of young attorneys how to be prosecutors.

   He has taught at numerous continuing legal education seminars for attorneys in the state and has been involved with the SC Bar Lawyer Mentor Program.

   Bill is a longtime member of Cedar Creek Church; he has served in Guest Services and as a Deacon to Pastor Phillip Lee.

   Bill has served on numerous boards and committees in his career. He has been President of the USCA Alumni, USCA Pacer Club, and the USCA Board of Directors.  He has served on the USC-Aiken Athletic Hall of Fame Board. Bill has served on the Brother & Sisters Board of Directors. He has also been involved as a committee member for Ducks Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

R. JACKSON COOPER

   The Jail Report: What are your three top goals if elected as Solicitor?

   Cooper: I have a three step plan to implement in the Second Judicial Circuit:

1) Develop a Career Criminal Task Force, which will consist of attorneys routinely working with law enforcement to identify repeat offenders, develop cases against them and prosecute those cases to the greatest extent possible;

2) Aggressively target and prosecute drug trafficking; and

3) Clean the docket by moving cases faster, trying cases more frequently and seeking justice for victims.

   The Jail Report: How would you differ from Solicitor J. Strom Thurmond?

   Cooper: As your Solicitor, I will also develop a system for attorneys to appear in bond court to represent law enforcement at these hearings.  This currently isn’t being done.  When a Defendant is a danger to the community or a flight risk, we need to oppose their bond being granted.

   That, coupled with the Career Criminal Task Force mentioned above, will serve to target repeat offenders, keeping them in jail or in prison.

   The Jail Report: We have heard many local residents complain that repeat offenders are slapped on the wrist and re-released, or not prosecuted at all. Some even complain that deputies make arrests and aren’t supported when it goes to court. What would you say to those critics?

   Cooper: I hear them, and I plan to work to stop it.  Along with the Career Criminal Task Force, I will seek to try more cases, more often in Aiken County. This will lower the number of plea deals offered, over time, and force more defendants to plead guilty to what they are initially charged with.

   We accomplish this by splitting court terms each month in Aiken County and dividing attorneys into teams.  With fewer attorneys assigned to each term of court, it will be more likely that a case actually goes to trial.

   The bottom line is that it will require much more work and longer hours, but that’s what it’s going to take to crack down on the evolving drug culture in these three counties.

   The Jail Report: Why are you better than your challenger for this job?

   Cooper: I bring conservative leadership and a fresh start to the Solicitor’s Office.  If you’re looking for the candidate with the most years under their belt, then I’m not your guy. I’ve never claimed to be more experienced.

   But, if you think that a change would benefit you, your families and the citizens of the Second Judicial Circuit, then I am your candidate. I have new ideas and plans to target repeat offenders and career criminals.  Whether you believe it’s good, bad or ugly, one thing is for certain, if elected, I will bring changes!

   For more information, find me on Facebook @CooperForSolicitor or email me CooperForSolicitor@gmail.com.

The Jail Report: Please provide a brief summary of your background and qualifications.

   Cooper: I graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2013 with a degree in Business Administration and again in 2016 from the School of Law with a Juris Doctor.  While attending, I was awarded the Emerging Leader award from the Moore School of Business in 2013 and the Nelson Mullins Professionalism Award in 2016 from the School of Law.

   Upon graduation, I spent a brief stint in Jasper County as a public defender and then served as an Assistant Solicitor in Barnwell and Bamberg Counties to the Honorable J. Strom Thurmond, Jr. from 2016-2019.

   Since August of 2019, I have served in the Office of General Counsel to Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC in Aiken, SC.

   While an Assistant Solicitor, I aggressively prosecuted drug trafficking and violent crimes. In 2019 alone, I successfully prosecuted three violent crimes to a guilty verdict, one of which led to a Life Without Parole sentence.

   Additionally, I also serve as the Area Chairman of the Salkehatchie Ducks Unlimited Chapter, which has raised more than $70,000 for wetlands conservation in my two years of service.

    My family and I attend Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Blackville, SC, where my wife and I both serve on multiple committees and teach Sunday School to the College and Career class.  I have been a member of Harmony Lodge No. 17 AFM in Barnwell, SC for 10 years.

   

Greg Rickabaugh
Greg Rickabaugh
Greg Rickabaugh is an award-winning crime reporter in the Augusta-Aiken area with experience writing for The Augusta Chronicle, The Augusta Press and serving as publisher of The Jail Report. Rickabaugh is a 1994 graduate of the University of South Carolina and has appeared on several crime documentaries on the Investigation Discovery channel.
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