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Rev. Hooper appointment revisited after indictment of sexual assualt revealed

web posted March 12, 2009
EDGEFIELD – Rev. J. R. Hooper addressed the Edgefield County Council last week in their March meeting asking why “wealthy folk” do not have their “taxes sold” (property sold for delinquent taxes) but “po folks do”. After a long rambling diatribe with baseless accusations of “favoritism” for the wealthy, Councilman Norman Dorn nominated Rev. Hooper to serve another term on the Tax Appeals Board and the vote to approve the appointment was unanimous. Now it seems the county council may be voting to undo the appointment after learning Hooper has been indicted in a sexual assault case.

“We will correct it (the appointment),” County Council Chairman Monroe Kneece said Wednesday evening. Chairman Kneece said he was not aware of any criminal charges against Mr. Hooper, “it’s not a position we run a background check for”. Kneece said he would check into the proper procedure to undo the vote. County Council appointees serve at the pleasure of the council and can be removed at anytime without cause by a simple majority vote. It is unknown at this time if the vote could be held at the March 17 Budget Work Session.

Rev. Hooper was arrested on April 11, 2007 by the Edgefield Police Department after a Section 8 tenet in one of his properties leveled accusations Hooper entered her bedroom while she was in bed, shut the door, pulled the covers back exposing her partially nude body, and sexually assaulted her. The woman’s statements to police indicated she asked Mr. Hooper if he was going to rape her before the attack. Her young daughter was home at the time.

The woman also told police that when she previously resisted Hooper’s sexual advances he would raise her rent $25 each time.

The woman stated she did not call police at the time of the attack because Mr. Hooper claimed he had “connections in this town” because he was a “bondsman and a preacher, and a landowner”. However, after speaking to family members they encouraged her to contact police.

After the investigation into the complaint was finished a warrant for Hopper’s arrest was issued. The matter was turned over to the Edgefield County Grand Jury on April 17 and a true bill indictment was issued on June 20, 2007. Hooper’s case could be heard in General Sessions Court scheduled to commence on May 25 of this year.

This is not the first accusation against Rev. Hooper for sexual assault. He was arrested on September 18, 2002 on a similar charge and was also indicted. That charge was dropped after a preliminary hearing on February 27, 2003.

County Council vice-chairman Willie Bright said he was aware of the arrest at the time of the vote. “Yeah, I knew about it,” Bright said laughing, “but I didn’t appoint him, Mr. Dorn did,” adding, “is there any law against that (appointing Hooper)?” Mr. Bright said he just did not give any thought to the arrest because he and Rev. Hooper “went to school together” and that he did not know of the outcome of the pending indictment.

Bright said Councilman Dorn was well aware of the pending charge at the time he reappointed Rev. Hooper to the board.

County Councilwoman Genia Blackwell said she was unaware of the allegations against Rev. Hooper at the time of the vote, but would be casting a vote to remove him from the Tax Appeals Board. “I hope the allegations against him are not true, but who we appoint to positions of honor to serve the county is a reflection of us (the county council) and we have to maintain the utmost integrity of those appointed.” Blackwell said the same standards that apply to employees of the county should apply to those appointed to serve on county boards. “The county wouldn’t hire Mr. Hooper with the pending indictment for a county position so I cannot justify supporting him serving in any capacity that reflects on the integrity of the county council.”

County Councilman Rodney Ashcraft offered his take on the situation when contacted. "The allegations that are leveled against Mr. Hooper are definitely serious. There is no question that had I known of this, the council would have been encouraged against the appointment. I don't want any of our positions held by anyone with allegations such as this. I am surprised that we were even able to entertain his appointment and will be relieved to correct this unfortunate oversight as soon as possible. I am interested in what other positions he already holds that might be in jeopardy because of his actions."

The revelation of the indictment was presented to the County Council by EdgefieldDaily.com shortly after the re-appointment nomination of Rev. Hooper by County Councilman Norman Dorn.
County Councilman Dorn was not contacted for comment of his appointment of a indicted sexual assault suspect as an appointee to the Tax Appeals Board as he refuses to return calls for comment by EdgefieldDaily.com.

A recording of Rev. Hooper's comments were posted on YouTube by a reader and can be found here: Part 1  and Part 2. EdgefieldDaily.com is not responsible for the editorial comments made by the producer of the recording in the YouTube presentation.

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