Ravenel pleads not guilty to drug charge

Suspended South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel is shown in this May 19 photo.
Suspended South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel is shown in this May 19 photo.

COLUMBIA -- State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel pleaded not guilty Friday on a federal cocaine charge and will be free on bail once he completes a 30-day stay in rehab.

Ravenel, who was not present at the arraignment in Columbia's federal courthouse, was indicted June 19 by a federal grand jury on one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

Indicted along with Ravenel was Michael Levon Miller, 26, of Mount Pleasant, whom federal prosecutors have described as a drug dealer. Miller also pleaded not guilty Friday.

Ravenel, 44, entered an Arizona drug-rehabilitation center on June 22, his attorney, Bart Daniel, said Friday. After he completes his treatment, he will have to appear before U.S. Magistrate Joseph McCrorey within 48 hours of his release.

"If you're a parent, a mother, a sister or a grandfather, you all can imagine how Thomas' sister and I feel today," Ravenel's father, Arthur Ravenel, said outside the courthouse. He said he's been inundated with cards and messages from friends and family wishing the family well.

Gov. Mark Sanford suspended Thomas Ravenel from office the day of his indictment. If Ravenel is convicted, he will lose his office. If he is acquitted or the charges are dropped, he will be reinstated.

Miller and Ravenel were granted $100,000 unsecured bonds, meaning they can be released without paying any money. If they failed to appear when required, however, the government would sue them for the $100,000.

Both men are accused of possessing up to 500 grams of cocaine. Prosecutors allege Miller sold the drugs to Ravenel, who bought them for his own use and to share with others. They do not allege that Ravenel sought to re-sell the drugs.

If convicted, Ravenel faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Before his indictment, Ravenel was serving as state chairman for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

At a campaign event in Myrtle Beach on Friday, Giuliani said he was shocked to hear about the indictment. "That's something he's going to have to answer for," Giuliani said.

Ravenel has stepped down from Giuliani's campaign.

Giuliani said he hopes Ravenel's drug rehabilitation works. Ravenel came from a "wonderful family," Giuliani said. "He seemed like a terrific young star, a guy headed to the top in South Carolina."