YORK COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - A former York County deputy pleaded guilty to one count of misconduct in office. He was sentenced to three years of probation and will no longer be able to serve in law enforcement.
Christopher Gage, 37, was a deputy for the York County Sheriff’s Office until he was terminated in January 2018. According to Senior Solicitor Matthew Shelton, Gage was immediately terminated after corroborating evidence was brought to the attention of Sheriff Kevin Tolson. A woman claimed Gage was having sex with her while on duty.
SLED investigated the allegations. Shelton says they found that Gage was having sex with a woman on multiple occasions in uniform, while on duty. The woman told SLED that Gage paid her after the sexual encounters. They say Gage also knew the woman was wanted for larceny charges but failed to arrest her.
“The woman’s statements were corroborated by text messages exchanged by her and Gage,” Shelton said in court.
“This is obviously a pretty serious matter from a public trust and public confidence standpoint at the very least. This is just the kind of behavior that a civilized community cannot tolerate from its law enforcement officers. We expect better from them,” Shelton said.
Shelton said they believe they caught Gage early on in his career and this appears to have happened in a relatively isolated time frame. It happened between October and December of 2017.
Defense attorney Zachary Merritt told the court that the woman making the claims was someone who used to work for Gage and who he had a previous relationship with. Merritt compared Gage’s case to an unrelated incident in which six other York County Sheriff’s deputies were disciplined by Sheriff Kevin Tolson for having sex with another deputy while on duty.
“It is a case to some extent of selective prosecution,” Merritt said. “There were many others involved that have been identified in law enforcement to have had sex and intercourse while on duty. However, Mr. Gage is the only one to have been prosecuted. They have chosen a man to prosecute who has served our country as a Marine, who did two tours of active duty in Iraq.”
Sheriff Kevin Tolson was in the courtroom for the hearing. Shelton told the courtroom that Sheriff Tolson was not going to comment but after hearing Merritt’s remarks, Tolson made an impromptu statement.
“I agreed with Mr. Merritt that I would not speak in this matter due to the fact that it was a negotiated sentence and I respect that fact, but after working in this courtroom for many years and seeing these types of pleas play out I take offense to Mr. Merritt’s canonization of this defendant,” Tolson said.
“I do not put Mr. Gage in the same category as the other officers who had transgressions years ago. Those officers, to open an old wound, had relationships with each other, not with citizens with active arrest warrants. That they paid. Known drug users that they paid.”
“And I think it’s important to point out that Mr. Gage denied the allegations on a number of occasions until he was faced with the evidence against him.”
“So I know the game of a defense attorney defending his client. But don’t put Mr. Gage and the other officers who made mistakes --there are mistakes, there is dumb and there is very irresponsible, and then there is complete erosion of public trust. I would not put those in the same category. That’s why I felt compelled to speak,” Tolson said.
Judge William McKinnon sentenced Gage to three years of probation, and he can no longer serve in law enforcement.