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Man pleads guilty in murder-for-hire plot against captain who survived shooting

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A South Carolina corrections officer was shot multiple times in the chest and officials later learned that inmates plotted to kill the captain because he was stopping their contraband from coming into the prison.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sean Echols - one of the men involved in the murder-for-hire plot- pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use interstate facilities in murder-for hire, according to the United States Attorney’s Office in South Carolina.

During the early morning hours of March 5, 2010, an armed gunman confronted Mr. Robert Johnson, a captain with the South Carolina Department of Corrections, inside his home, federal officials said in a news release. The gunman shot Mr. Johnson numerous times in the chest, leaving him for dead, officials said.

Capt. Johnson has had surgeries and is still under a doctor’s care, officials said.

Federal investigators said the shooting was done in retaliation of Capt. Johnson’s enforcement of contraband rules in the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Capt. Johnson had foiled a number of shipments of contraband such as drugs and cell phones into the state prison, upsetting some of the inmates, they said.

The investigation revealed that earlier in 2010, a plot was hatched among some of the inmates to retaliate against the captain so that the shipments of contraband into the prison would no longer be disrupted, officials said.

One inmate, whose identity was not released, became a person of interest in the plot and a shakedown of the prison revealed a cell phone belonging to and used by that specific inmate, federal prosecutors said. Cell records connected that inmate to another recently released inmate, Mr. Echols, they said.

Agents learned that Mr. Echols had communicated through cell phones with the inmate and discussed the plot to kill Capt. Johnson, specifying how to carry out the shooting and what Mr. Echols would receive in exchange for his role in the plot, officials said.

After the discussions, that inmate then mailed an initial payment to Mr. Echols for his role in the murder-for-hire conspiracy, they said. Mr. Echols and his co-conspirators used both cell phones and the mail in this murder-for-hire plot, both of which are facilities of interstate commerce, officials said.

Mr. Echols is currently serving a state sentence stemming from an unrelated incident in Orangeburg, officials said. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to five years.