Ravenel to make 1st court appearance today

COLUMBIA -- Suspended state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel has been released from an Arizona drug treatment center after a month-long stay, and his arraignment on a federal drug charge has been set for today.

Ravenel arrived in Charleston on Sunday after being released from the Sierra Tucson treatment center in Tucson, Ariz., Bart Daniel of Charleston, one of his attorneys, said when contacted Monday.

Daniel, a former U.S. attorney for South Carolina, didn't know exactly when his client was released from the center, which treats a variety of addiction and behavioral disorders.

Ravenel, 44, is scheduled to appear at 11 a.m. today in Columbia before U.S. Magistrate Joseph McCrorey on a charge of conspiracy to possess and distribute less than 500 grams of cocaine. The charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Ravenel is accused of using cocaine and sharing it with others, not selling it.

He entered the drug rehabilitation center June 22, three days after he was indicted. He initially was arraigned earlier this month, though he wasn't required to appear for that hearing. His lawyers entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

McCrorey ordered Ravenel, who is free on a $100,000 unsecured bond, to appear before him within 48 hours of his release from the treatment center.

Daniel said Monday he didn't expect the conditions of bail to be changed or any new information on the alleged crime to be presented today, though he added, "You never know."

Kevin McDonald, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Reggie Lloyd, said the main purpose of the hearing is to allow McCrorey to address Ravenel in person.

His bail conditions included being prohibited from using or possessing illegal drugs or possessing weapons, possibly be subject to random drug testing and checking in regularly with federal authorities.

Gov. Mark Sanford suspended Ravenel from office on the day of his indictment. Ravenel is not being paid the treasurer's $92,007 salary during his suspension.

Sanford named as interim treasurer Ken Wingate, a Columbia accountant, tax attorney and estate planner who mounted unsuccessful bids for governor in 2002 and state Senate in 2004.

Wingate will remain, for the time being, as the interim treasurer, Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said Monday, but no decision has been made whether Wingate or someone else would hold the interim position for the long term.

If convicted, Ravenel, a Republican who was elected in November, would lose his office; if he is acquitted or if charges are dropped, he would be reinstated.

Ravenel's co-defendant, 25-year-old Michael Levon Miller of Mount Pleasant, is accused of selling cocaine to Ravenel, federal authorities said.

Like Ravenel, Miller was granted a $100,000 unsecured bond, meaning he could be released without paying any money.

However, he remains in the Charleston County Detention Center on state charges of trafficking cocaine, a jail spokeswoman said Monday.