|United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina|
May 3, 2010 - June 15, 2016
|Beth Drake (acting)|
William N. Nettles
1961 (age 57–58)
|Alma mater||The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina|
Widener University School of Law
Nettles defended Bobby Lee Holmes in a 2001 retrial for the murder of 86-year-old Mary Stewart. Nettles attempted to introduce evidence implicating that someone other than Holmes committed the crime. The court refused to admit the evidence and Holmes was convicted and sentenced to death for a second time. When the case appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court in Holmes v. South Carolina, the court unanimously overturned Holmes' conviction in the second trial because the exclusion of evidence violated his right to present a full defense.
Nettles entered practice with Alex Sanders, a former South Carolina Court of Appeals chief judge, in 2005, forming Sanders & Nettles, LLC. Nettles represented Michael Phelps when he was investigated for marijuana possession after being photographed holding a bong at a house party in Columbia. Phelps was not charged.
After serving as the U.S. attorney for the District of South Carolina for six years, Nettles returned to private practice. He tries criminal defense, whistleblower, personal injury, and general civil cases from an office in Columbia.
During the 2008 South Carolina Democratic primary, Nettles led the legal team for Barack Obama's campaign in the state. After the resignation of U.S. Attorney Walt Wilkins, Obama appointed Nettles the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina. The U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination unanimously.
Nettles took office in 2010. As U.S. attorney, he focused his office's prosecution efforts on public corruption, white-collar crime, and cases under the federal False Claims Act. He added five attorneys to the civil litigation staff, and, throughout his time in office, South Carolina was among the leading districts for financial recovery from false claims. His office pursued federal corruption charges against Lexington County Sheriff Jimmy Metts, the longest-serving sheriff in South Carolina history, with Metts ultimately pleading guilty to conspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants.
He also placed less emphasis on drug crime prosecutions and convictions. Nettles collaborated with community leaders in North Charleston to launch the Stop and Take a New Direction (STAND) program, an initiative that allowed a select number of street-level drug dealers facing federal narcotics charges to avoid prison in exchange for participating in a rehabilitation program. Attorney General Eric Holder and other federal and state law enforcement officials applauded the program, which Nettles brought to two other cities in South Carolina. He also launched the South Carolina Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, which provides support and health and safety services to children whose parents are arrested on drug charges.
Nettles resigned from the U.S. Attorney's office in 2016.