Bill Nettles

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Bill Nettles
BillNettles ColumbiaSC.jpg
United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina
In office
May 3, 2010 – June 15, 2016
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byWalt Wilkins
Succeeded bySherri Lydon
Personal details
William N. Nettles

1961 (age 57–58)
Alma materThe Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina
Widener University School of Law

William N. "Bill" Nettles (born 1961) is an American lawyer. He served as the United States attorney for the District of South Carolina from 2010 to 2016.[1]


Nettles completed his undergraduate education at The Citadel. He graduated with a law degree from the Widener University School of Law.[2]


From 1992 to 1995, Nettles was an assistant public defender in the Richland County public defender's office in Columbia, South Carolina. He entered private practice in 1997.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4]

Nettles entered practice with Alex Sanders, a former South Carolina Court of Appeals chief judge, in 2005, forming Sanders & Nettles, LLC.[2][5] Nettles represented Michael Phelps when he was investigated for marijuana possession after being photographed holding a bong at a house party in Columbia.[6] Phelps was not charged.[7]

After serving as the U.S. attorney for the District of South Carolina for six years, Nettles returned to private practice.[1] He tries criminal defense, whistleblower, personal injury, and general civil cases from an office in Columbia.[8]

In 2017, the city of North Charleston hired Nettles to act as the initial facilitator for the 25-person Citizens' Advisory Commission on Community-Police Relations.[9]

Political career[edit]

During the 2008 South Carolina Democratic primary, Nettles led the legal team for Barack Obama's campaign in the state.[2] 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.[6]

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.[10] He added five attorneys to the civil litigation staff,[1] and, throughout his time in office, South Carolina was among the leading districts for financial recovery from false claims.[8] His office pursued federal corruption charges against Lexington County Sheriff Jimmy Metts, the longest-serving sheriff in South Carolina history,[11] with Metts ultimately pleading guilty to conspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

Nettles resigned from the U.S. Attorney's office in 2016.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Monk, John (15 June 2016). "U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles of South Carolina is retiring after six years in the state's chief federal law enforcement post". The State. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d Monk, John; Waddell, Eileen (23 December 2009). "Obama taps Nettles for U.S. attorney". The State. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  3. ^ Graham, Toya (12 July 2008). "Holmes pleads guilty in 1989 death". The Herald. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  4. ^ Bonner, Raymond (2013). Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong. Vintage. pp. 156–157. ISBN 978-0307948540.
  5. ^ Meet the U.S. Attorney, archived from the original on 13 September 2015, retrieved 18 October 2016
  6. ^ a b Rosen, James (22 April 2010). "Michael Phelps' lawyer now South Carolina's U.S. attorney". McClatchy DC. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  7. ^ Brundrett, Rick (17 February 2009). "S.C. sheriff says no pot charge for Phelps after photo". The Herald. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  8. ^ a b Lanahan, Thomas (15 June 2016). "United States Attorney Bill Nettles leaving position for private practice in Columbia". WACH. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  9. ^ Knich, Diane (15 February 2017). "North Charleston hires former U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles to help launch police advisory group". The Post and Courier. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  10. ^ Smith, Tim (15 June 2016). "U.S. attorney: S.C. lacks adequate gun, ethics laws". Greenville Online. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  11. ^ Moore, Eva (22 June 2016). "'A Last Resort'". Free Times. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  12. ^ Monk, John; Flach, Tim (30 December 2014). "Lexington County ex-Sheriff pleads guilty, ends storied career in disgrace". The State. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  13. ^ Reilly, Ryan J. (8 November 2013). "When It Comes to Eric Holder's 'Smart on Crime' Push, Good Ideas Aren't Partisan -- Or Even His". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  14. ^ Reilly, Ryan J. (21 April 2015). "These 7 Drug Dealers Were Caught Red-Handed. Instead of Jail, They Get a Second Chance". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  15. ^ "County's pilot program for drug-endangered children going statewide". The Times and Democrat. 7 May 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2016.