Laurens – A man serving a prison sentence for a 2016 attempted armed robbery pleaded guilty Monday in Laurens County to trafficking methamphetamine, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced Tuesday morning.
Kevin Matthew Bowlin, 30, pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of trafficking methamphetamine, 28 to 100 grams. Circuit Judge R. Ferrell Cothran Jr. then sentenced Bowlin to 20 years in prison.
Bowlin had an extensive criminal record which exposed him to a potential life sentence should he have been convicted at trial. Bowlin chose to change his plea to guilty and a 20-year sentence with no parole eligibility prior to his case being called to trial before a Laurens County jury on Monday afternoon.
Bowlin was serving an active prison sentence he received after pleading guilty in 2017 to a charge of attempted armed robbery in connection to a 2016 Greenwood County incident in which he attempted to rob a man at gunpoint and struck the man several times with the butt of his gun after he discovered the man had nothing of value.
In May 2019, deputies with the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office performed a traffic stop on a vehicle. Deputies discovered an extensive quantity of methamphetamine in addition to a quantity of “liquid meth” that was to be converted into usable methamphetamine at a later time. Through the course of the investigation, deputies discovered that the drugs were a part of the meth ring being run by Bowlin from behind prison walls.
Bowlin was being held at Lieber Correctional Facility in Dorchester County at the time of the traffic stop. Guards searched Bowlin’s cell and found him attempting to wipe clean a contraband cell phone. The contents of the phone linked Bowlin directly to the narcotics found in Laurens County.
Contraband cell phones have been a significant problem in the state prison system as they are being used to coordinate a host of crimes across South Carolina, including drug trafficking and planned acts of violence against enemies, prison guards, and other criminal justice officials. The issue has led the Attorneys General of 22 states, led by S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, to call for U.S. Congress to allow contraband cell phones to be jammed at prisons. Bill S.117 was introduced in January to the state senate that would put into full use a pilot program that would allow prison officials to work with mobile carriers to shut down service on contraband cell phones. The bill is currently in the S.C. Senate Committee on Corrections and Penology.
Deputy Solicitor Josh Thomas and Assistant Solicitor Mary-Madison Driggers prepared the case for trial for the State with assistance from 8th Circuit Investigator Jared Hunnicutt. Bowlin was represented by attorney Monier Abusaft of the Spartanburg County Bar.
Solicitor Stumbo praised the work of his staff, along with Laurens County Sheriff’s Department Inv. Charles Nations, in securing the conviction and lengthy prison sentence.
“Contraband cell phones continue to be a major issue in the prisons across our state,” Solicitor Stumbo said following the sentencing. “We have finally seen some progress with the success of the recent pilot program that allowed prison officials to work with carriers to disable contraband phones, but we need to prosecute these problem inmates to the fullest extent of the law to stop the further acts of crime and chaos that spill back out of the prisons into our communities.”