YORK -- For the second time this year, former York County Coroner Doug McKown avoided prison.
Judge John Few sentenced McKown on Friday to 30 days of house arrest, a far weaker punishment than what state probation officials had requested. The S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services had wanted McKown, 39, jailed for 90 days for violating his probation.
Instead, Few ruled that local authorities will use electronic monitoring to track McKown for 30 days. McKown must stay at home unless he goes to work, church, a doctor's office or to perform his court-mandated community service. Few also forced the former coroner to pay a $250 fine.
The decision has upset some local black leaders, who said they see McKown's case as an example of a justice system that gives blacks harsher punishments than whites for the same crimes, said Steve Love, president of the Western York County NAACP.
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"There is no justice when it comes to that," Love said of McKown's case. "Not only African-Americans, but there's a lot of people who feel that this isn't right. The county needs to be held accountable for this disparity in justice."
Dennis Wilson, who serves on the executive board of the Western York County NAACP, said he believes in forgiveness, but as a former police officer, he also wants to see justice served.
Wilson said he has mixed emotions about the case because he knows McKown. Still, he thinks a black person would have gone to prison for violating probation like McKown did.
"I don't think it's fair," Wilson said Friday. "We look at what America accomplished last night with Obama, then today you hear news of this magnitude. Again, it goes to show that America has come a long way and advanced a long way in certain issues. ... Then (with) certain things, we've gone backwards."
Judge Few didn't give a reason for the sentence. But he said "the real crux" of the case was Mc-Kown's trip to Lincoln County, N.C., last month, when he was cited for drinking while driving and having an open bottle of beer in his vehicle.
A day after his North Carolina arrest, McKown was arrested in York County and charged with violating his probation. His probation agent said the former coroner lied to probation officials about his North Carolina case, didn't immediately notify an agent about his arrest and left the state without permission, among other offenses.
But in court Friday, McKown's attorney Jack Swerling argued that McKown didn't think he has been arrested in North Carolina because he was not booked in a jail. Mc- Kown simply appeared before a magistrate and was given two citations.
Swerling also said McKown left the state to pick up Eric Howell, his boss at a Gastonia, N.C., funeral home. Howell was drunk and needed a ride home, Swerling said.
North Carolina authorities said Howell was smoking crack cocaine in McKown's county-owned Chevy Blazer.
McKown never tried to hide the case from probation officials, Swerling said, noting that McKown called his probation agent at 9:17 a.m. the day after he was cited in North Carolina. That day, he also took a drug test, which came back negative.
McKown's probation agent, Cresinna Underwood, said Mc-Kown lied when he told her that he hadn't been arrested and had only been ticketed. She said he had been arrested and should have called her as soon as her office opened that morning.
"My phone should have been ringing at 8:30," she said.
Swerling countered that the timing argument was extreme. He also noted that his client was sentenced to a year's probation for having a half-pill of Viagra in his home.
McKown did leave the state without his probation agent's permission, Swerling told the judge, but said his punishment should be proportional to his original crime and the nature of his probation violation.
"He's doing the best he can," Swerling said. "This is a very difficult situation for him."
In May, McKown was acquitted of felony cocaine charges, the allegations that led Gov. Mark Sanford to suspend him from office in 2006.
McKown returned to the coroner's post in June after his acquittal, but resigned last month after his North Carolina arrest.
Swerling and McKown didn't speak to reporters after Friday's hearing. When reached on his cell phone later, McKown declined to comment.
Pete O'Boyle, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, also wouldn't comment on the judge's ruling.