COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – State lawmakers might change South Carolina’s law next year that requires a national and state criminal background check to get a real estate license, after Todd Kohlhepp was able to get a license despite a kidnapping conviction in Arizona.
They passed a law in 2014 requiring background checks, but Kohlhepp got his license in 2006, and the law is not retroactive and does not require agents to pass a background check when they renew their licenses every two years.
Sen. Ronnie Cromer, R-Prosperity, sponsored the law two years ago. He said lawmakers talked at the time about making it retroactive, or at least requiring a background check at renewal, but says there was opposition. But he says lawmakers might now try again next year because of Kohlhepp’s current case.
The state’s real estate license application does ask whether an applicant has been convicted of a felony. Kohlhepp did check the “yes” box and attached a letter explaining what happened. But his explanation doesn’t match court records in Arizona.
He said that, when he was a “15-year-old child,” he had a verbal argument with his girlfriend. He said he had a gun with him because it was a bad area of town, but that his girlfriend never even saw the gun. But her parents had been looking for her and couldn’t find her, and, since he was a minor in possession of a firearm, and because he told her she couldn’t leave while they talked things out, he ended up being charged with kidnapping. He says police at the time were really cracking down on minors with guns, he served his 15-year sentence, and since that time had worked on making himself a better person.
But a court-ordered psychological evaluation before his sentencing tells a much different story. The doctor who did the evaluation says Kohlhepp said, “I raped a girl and got caught.” Kohlhepp and the victim did not have a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, but she was someone he was friends with. The doctor’s report says Kohlhepp forced the girl into his home at gunpoint, tied her up and raped her.
This is the full letter Kohlhepp attached with his licence application:
To South Carolina Real Estate Commission:
I would like this chance to explain the circumstances that led to my incarceration 20 years ago hen I was a fifteen year old child.
While the offense was my fault and I took full responsibility for this unfortunate incident, the fact that this was the only illegal incidence in ,y life, the very distant date that this happened and what I have done with my life afterwards should be a factor I respectfully ask that you take into consideration in your decision of granting me permission to take te South Carolina Real Estate exam.
On November 24th, 1986 I entered into a verbal argument with my girlfriend who was also 15 at the time over the fact that she was seeing someone else as well, which resulted in us going to my house three addresses down from her’s in order to not have our business shouted out in the middle of the road. After a long discussion coming from two teenagers, final result was that the relationship had ended, but that we would remain friends. To show that this was the end of the situation as far as we were concerned, after our heated conversation, my dog managed to get out of the fence and the two of us ran around the neighborhood for 20 minutes before she caught him and returned my dog to the yard. At this time law enforcement arrived due to a call from her parents over the difficulty that they had been trying to call her and she had never answered the phone.
At this time, after admitting we had had a heated argument, they found that I possessed a firearm (for which I have never shot) that I carried at night as the Phoenix area of Arizona has a very high crime rate and I thought very juvenile-like that possession and no knowledge of how to use it would keep me safe by being able to flash it. Looking back, this was not my smartest thought as a teenager. Using it or, possession of a firearm by a minor is a felony and with the argument with my girlfriend openly stated, I was charged with the felony of kidnapping due to the fact that I did have a firearm n me regardless that she didn’t know it, and I had told her not to move while we talked this out.
At this time, Arizona was coming down very hard on minors and anything to do with firearms due to the heavy gang activity out there, an I received a sentence of 15 years for which I served every day, no parole required.
While serving my sentence, I received my G.E.D. and attended college whereby I received and Associates degree in Computer Science. Upon my release I went to work as a professional graphic designer, whereby my company was fully aware of the situation. My integrity, honesty and professionalism within their structure granted me promotions at a record pace, only leaving this company due to my desire to return to college for another degree and a wish to be more involved with marketing.
I am currently a senior at University of South Carolina – Upstate finishing up a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration with honors, membership into the Phi Kappa Phi honor society which is granted to only the top 7% in the country by invitation only, and Sigma Alpha Lambda Leadership and Honor society. This year while attending college, I also have been granted by the Federal Aviation Administration my private pilots license and currently working on my instrument/commercial ratings which I expect to achieve this next year.
I feel that my actions immediately after and ongoing this situation have shown my desire to follow the law and all guidelines, achieving more in an effort to give back for m juvenile and wrong actions as a child. I have worked very diligently for two decades to show my intent and ambition to do the right thing, and should you allow me to become a licensed Real Estate Professional, I promised to set an example in performing in a manner following all guidelines honorably of you commission. Thank you very much for you time and consideration.
Todd C. Kohlhepp
Continuing coverage of the Woodruff kidnapping
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