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Woman in coroner case to enter drug rehab

York County official was suspended in July after indictments

YORK - The York County woman officials say conspired to sell cocaine with suspended Coroner Doug McKown was accepted into a court-run drug rehab program this week.

If Erin Jenkins, 28, successfully completes the program, charges against her will be dismissed, said her attorney, Jim Morton. Her participation is based on her pleading guilty to several drug-related charges in October, he said.

"She's very excited about it," he said. "She's anxious to get this behind her."

The charges against Jenkins stem from an early May incident in which police say they have a video that shows McKown watching as Jenkins makes a drug deal in York. McKown and Jenkins both turned themselves in to authorities May 17 after being charged in connection with the drug deal.

Jenkins was charged with five drug related offenses, including distribution of cocaine and possession of Ecstasy. McKown was charged with three: Cocaine possession, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and unlawful possession of prescription drugs.

Mark Plowden, a spokesman with the state attorney general's office, said Jenkins' cooperation with law enforcement, her admission that she has a drug problem and her desire to seek help make her an ideal candidate for the program.

"She has cooperated fully -- and I mean fully -- in every way, shape or form with law enforcement and continues to do so," Plowden said.

When asked if Jenkins was getting a deal in exchange for her testimony against McKown, Plowden declined to comment, saying he wouldn't discuss legal strategy.

After McKown was suspended by Gov. Mark Sanford in July, Kenneth Gaines, a University of South Carolina law professor, said the fact that Jenkins wasn't indicted at the same time as McKown could be an indicator of the prosecution's strategy.

When more than one person is charged in the same crime, Gaines said, prosecutors often try to get one person to testify against another in exchange for some kind of deal. He also said prosecutors frequently try to get lesser known people to turn on their more popular co-defendants.

"That's kind of the philosophy," he told The Herald, "going after the big fish."

McKown was suspended after a grand jury indicted him on the three drug charges. On Tuesday, Sanford appointed Sabrina Gast, a forensic nurse at the Rock Hill Police Department, as interim coroner.

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