Ex-SC official gets 7 months in prison in prostitution sting

The Associated Press

Columbia, S.C. – A former member of the board that oversees South Carolina highways will spend seven months in prison for trying to hire a prostitute just hours after he received probation for admitting he tried to derail an FBI investigation by destroying evidence.

John Hardee, 72, was sentenced Wednesday after a psychiatrist hired by his lawyer suggested a mild form of dementia might have led him to text what turned out to be an undercover deputy offering $40 for a sex act.

Prosecutors say 72-year-old Hardee tried to hire the woman for sex just hours after getting no jail time for trying to destroy evidence in an FBI investigation into whether he accepted bribes while on the South Carolina Department of Transportation board. Hardee was sentenced Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, in Columbia, S.C.

Hardee also asked for mercy, saying he has been with terrible criminals and heard horrible language used during his time in jail since his August arrest, according to media outlets.

Hardee pleaded guilty and was sentenced Aug. 7 to probation and 45 days of house arrest for obstructing a bribery investigation . Hardee told an FBI informant to destroy his email after finding out about a bribery investigation. Authorities said they found no evidence Hardee ever accepted bribes.

Hours later, investigators said Hardee was busted in the undercover sting operation.

As he handed down the sentence, U.S. Judge Terry Wooten told Hardee he hoped the former official learned his lesson this time and pointed out even with the dementia diagnosis, the psychiatrist still testified Hardee knew right from wrong.

Prosecutors had asked Wooten to sentence Hardee to the full 16 months in prison he could have faced on the original obstruction charge.

Wooten gave Hardee credit for his time in jail since his arrest . He will have to serve three months in home confinement after he is released from prison and then finish his probation.

Hardee spent 13 years of the SCDOT board. The agency named the expressway to Columbia’s airport after him, but removed the designation and the signs honoring him after his prostitution arrest.