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Litchfield Plantation: Former developer sues over 2011 arrest

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Nearly two years after he was arrested on a charge of grand larceny for reassigning promissory notes from a homeowners association to his own company, a former developer of Litchfield Plantation has filed suit against the property owners who made the complaint to the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office.

E. Scott Trotter is asking unspecified damages for defamation, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment, according to the suit filed in Circuit Court last week. The defendants, Joseph E. Johnston, Robert F. McMahan Jr. and Carol E. Kirby, were elected to the board of the Litchfield Plantation Association in a 2011 vote that is at the center of an ongoing suit between property owners and the current owners of the Litchfield Plantation Co.

Trotter, who had arranged a buyout of Litchfield Plantation from a previous owner in 2008, was president of the Litchfield Plantation Co. and the homeowners association in February 2011 when property owners called a special meeting of the association and voted him out.

A Circuit Court judge has ruled that vote invalid under the association bylaws, but the decision is now under appeal.

In his suit, Trotter says in April 2011 he assigned notes and mortgages to his own Litchfield Plantation Buyout Group that were originally made out to the homeowners association by the Litchfield Plantation Co. He says that was done in order to protect the association from foreclosure. The value of the notes was $926,881.

He says his attorney at the time, Charles Nation, told him he had authority to assign the notes because he was still president of the association.

Trotter says he met with Johnston, who was elected president of the association at the disputed meeting, in June 2011 and told Johnston he had no plans of profiting from the assignment, according to court documents. A week later, according to Trotter’s complaint, McMahan announced at an association meeting that “the board had contacted the proper authorities in relation to this transfer.”

McMahan, Johnston and Kirby met with a sheriff’s office investigator two days later saying they were the elected members of the association board and seeking Trotter’s arrest, according to court documents. At the same time, Trotter says, he offered to deposit the notes and mortgages with the court pending the outcome of a civil suit filed over control of the association.

Trotter was arrested July 1, 2011.

The defendants “transformed their civil action into a criminal one,” Trotter says in his complaint. As a result, his reputation and his business suffered, he says. He also claims emotional distress and other damages.

Trotter was allowed to intervene in the civil suit over control of the homeowners association and the notes and mortgages were deposited with the court in May 2012.

In November 2012, the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office dismissed the grand larceny charge against Trotter, saying there was “insufficient evidence of criminal intent” and citing the ongoing suit over control of the homeowners association.

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