A dispute between the U.S. Attorney for South Carolina and a prominent Charleston lawyer over the improper disclosure of confidential investigative material has been resolved with federal authorities dropping their request that a judge reprimand the lawyer.
At the same time, the lawyer, David Aylor, has publicly acknowledged his responsibility for an employee of his law firm leaving confidential material in a secure room at the Charleston County jail.
In a three-page settlement document, filed Dec. 19 in federal court in Charleston, the government agreed that Aylor did not intend for the material to be disseminated to anyone other than his client, a jail inmate, and that Aylor did not intend for any dissemination of the material to affect witness testimony or put anyone in danger.
In a September complaint seeking a reprimand against Aylor, the government said that leaving the confidential materials in the jail had meant Aylor's law office had "compromised ongoing investigations, provided a means for the harassment and intimidation of witnesses, and contributed to threats against the United States."
However, in the December settlement document, the government walked back those claims, saying that violations of the confidentiality rules "can potentially lead to threats of violence, assaults or violence against witnesses."
In an interview with The State newspaper Friday, Aylor again took responsibility for the inadvertent leaving of confidential material, but noted the government's original allegations of harm being done to investigations "turned out not to be substantiated."
In fact, Aylor said, his reputation was hurt because the government could not back up its claim that the inadvertent disclosure of confidential material had specifically led to investigations being compromised or people being harmed.
Aylor, 41, is a personal injury and criminal defense lawyer in the 22-staff law firm, with offices in Charleston, North Charleston and Myrtle Beach that bears his name.
"David is happy to put this behind him," said Beattie Ashmore, the Greenville lawyer and former government prosecutor whom Aylor hired to represent him in the case.
Ashmore wrote in a November filing in the case that "Mr. Aylor has accepted full responsibility in this matter and he candidly admitted that his office left a discovery packet for his client with the Charleston Detention Center with the understanding it was to be viewed only by his client,"
In that filing, Ashmore argued that the government's original request for a federal judge to reprimand Aylor was no longer warranted.
That's because, argued Ashmore, the government filed its request for sanctions in a public document on the federal court documents web site, thereby "usurping the power of this court" and "by themselves issuing a de facto public reprimand."
That document contained information from a closed public hearing and should not have been made public, Ashmore said. The document was removed from the public web site shortly after a reporter from The State newspaper found it.
The case that landed Aylor in hot water with the government involved a former client, LaJustin "Smurf" Williams, 40, who remains an inmate in the Charleston County Detention Center.
Williams was indicted in February by a Charleston federal grand jury that charged him and 11 others with being part of a conspiracy to traffic in quantities of illegal drugs including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana
While Williams was in the Charleston County jail, a member of Aylor's law firm brought confidential material into the jail and left it with Williams in a pod enclosure where numerous other inmates had access to it, according to an October government filing in the case.
Under court rules, defendants are allowed to view sensitive prosecution material that is evidence against them, such as grand jury transcripts, but they are not allowed to keep that material or share it with others.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office declined comment, saying the settlement document "speaks for itself."