Fireworks noise hearing postponed

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014

A magistrate hearing that could decide if Monday night fireworks over the inlet violate the Georgetown County noise ordinance has been postponed until Sept. 18 at 10 a.m.

About 40 people who gathered in the Georgetown County Magistrate’s office in Pawleys Island on Aug. 21 found out that Scott Joye, the defense attorney, was only retained that morning so the case would not be heard.

“I know very little about [the case],” Joye said.

“I have not been able to subpoena the documents and records needed to defend my client.”

Judge John Benso, the magistrate for the Murrells Inlet area, stated that he knows people were expecting a decision but he had no choice.

“Every man has a right to counsel,” Benso said.

“As much as I would like to provide some kind of resolution to this issue, I agree that counsel needs time to review the evidence in the case.”

Before Joye requested a continuance, Benso was asking the people in the court room if anyone had an objection to him deciding the case.

Benso served on the Murrells Inlet 2020 Board of Directors, a non-profit group that has voiced opposition to the weekly fireworks, in 2010 and 2011.

He said he knows Murrells Inlet 2020 is not directly involved in this case, but he wanted to make sure it would not be an issue before continuing.

“I invite argument if anyone feels that my impartiality would reasonably be questioned,” Benso stated.

Sheriff’s deputies, representing the State of South Carolina in the case, and Joye all said they had no objections to Benso serving as judge in the case.

The county’s Sheriff’s Office issued two citations against Kenneth Dean Roberts with Zambelli Fireworks on Aug. 4 and 11, after receiving complaints from three Murrells Inlet residents: Sandra Bundy, Leon Rice and Emily Weinreich.

Those residents are hoping that the weekly fireworks over the Marsh Walk, which last about seven or eight minutes at 9 p.m. on Mondays, will be discontinued next year.

The three residents do not oppose the annual Fourth of July fireworks over the inlet.

Representatives of seven restaurants on the Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk who sponsor the fireworks say the thousands of people who come to Murrells Inlet to enjoy the weekly fireworks outweigh a few residents who oppose them and that the fireworks show is permitted.

Representatives of Zambelli, the company that puts on the show, agree, saying that they have met all regulations for county and state.

According to the Magistrate’s office, if Roberts pleads guilty, evidence will be presented and the judge will decide whether he accepts the guilty plea.

If he does, the judge will issue a fine or other penalty.

If Roberts pleads not guilty and wants a jury trial, the case will be transferred to Georgetown Judicial Center.

If he pleads not guilty and wants a bench trial, the case will be heard right then and the state has to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

If he is found guilty of violating the county noise ordinance, it is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by no less than $250, or more than $500, or imprisonment not to exceed 30 days.

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