Richland County, SC (WLTX) - Fifth District Solicitor Dan Johnson has concluded that no charges will be pursued in the Spring Valley High School incident last year that made national headlines, either against the deputy or the students who were involved.
Johnson issued a 12 page letter to Captain John Bishop with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, where he said he reviewed the evidence presented by Bishop's agency and gave his reasons for his decision.
Last October, Richland County Deputy Ben Fields was asked to come to the classroom because a student wouldn't follow orders. Fields then gave the student several commands as well, and then forcibly removed her from her desk, then dragged her several feet.
The student who he dragged and another student who spoke up after witnesses Fields' actions, Niya Kenny, were both charged with disturbing schools. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott later fired Fields, saying the officer's actions were against department training.
SLED conducted interviews or got statements from over a dozen witnesses, Fields, and reviewed medical records.
After looking at those materials, Johnson said there was not probable cause to charge Fields, and that his actions did not rise to the level of criminal conduct, although he did agree with his firing.
"..I am unable to conclude that Benjamin Fields' use of force was criminal based not only on his perceptions of the events that occurred on October 26, 2015, but also both the admitted resistance of the student, as well as the subsequent information obtained via the joint FBI and SLED investigative file set as forth, in part, herein."
As for the student who he removed, Johnson felt the investigation was compromised by the firing of Fields and administration action taken against the teacher. He said if those facts were brought up in court, he felt it would be hard to get a conviction, and said that because of this fact, the charges against the teen are dismissed
Finally, Johnson said was no evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kenny broke the law. He said Kenny witnesses a disturbing event and responded to it verbally. "Her objections to the officer's actions do not violate the statute and cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have 'willfully or unncesarily...interfere[d] with or to disturb in any way or in any place the students or teachers of ...[the] school."
The charges against Kenny were also dismissed.
He concluded by suggesting that both schools and law agencies need to take a new look at how deputies are used in schools, and suggested new training for school resource officers.