McKown trial date set for May 19

Nearly two years after he was arrested on three drug charges, suspended York County Coroner Doug McKown appears to be headed to court.

A May 19 trial date has been scheduled for McKown, who was suspended from office in 2006 after being indicted on the three charges.

Mark Plowden, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said in an e-mail Monday that McKown's trial is slated for York County.

McKown, 39, was arrested in May 2006 after authorities said they videotaped him watching his former girlfriend, Erin Jenkins, sell cocaine in York.

Police informants claim that McKown gave Jenkins money to buy cocaine and Ecstasy, that he used the drugs himself and that he stored cocaine at his Clover home, according to a search warrant.

When reached on his cell phone Monday afternoon, McKown refused to comment on the trial and referred all questions to his attorney, Jack Swerling.

Swerling could not be reached.

Gov. Mark Sanford suspended McKown from office on July 21, 2006, a day after a grand jury indicted him on charges of distribution of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a prescription drug.

McKown was suspended until the charges are resolved. But McKown, who was appointed to the post in 1994 when the former coroner stepped down, said he has not ruled out running for the office again.

The deadline to file for coroner and other county races is noon Sunday.

The outcome of McKown's case has been discussed before, but not in terms of a trial.

In August, Plowden said in an e-mail that McKown was expected to plead guilty to misconduct in office, a misdemeanor offense.

The spokesman would not elaborate on what would happen to the three drug charges, except to say that the final disposition of all charges would be handled in court and prosecutors hoped to complete the agreement Sept. 17.

But that court date never came.

The week before the hearing, it was abruptly postponed. At that time, Plowden said McKown's court appearance was delayed because of "scheduling."

Although a court date now has been scheduled, Plowden on Monday noted: "A trial can always be rescheduled for an endless number of reasons."

Plowden would not discuss why the case has taken two years to come to trial, nor would he say if there have been any discussions about a plea arrangement since last year.

"This office will not discuss any details or topics surrounding this case, other than scheduling matters, until the case is called for trial," he wrote.

If convicted of all three charges, McKown could face up to 17 and a half years in prison and $26,500 in fines.

Amid the struggles of his criminal case, McKown also dealt with unrelated ethics violations.

McKown admitted the violations in January 2007, moments before his state Ethics Commission hearing was to begin. He later signed a consent order, admitting to four violations of using his public office for personal gain and using his county vehicle for noncoroner business.

The Ethics Commission issued McKown a public reprimand and fined him $1,000.