Congressman-elect Mark Sanford won't appear in Charleston County Family Court Thursday on a trespassing allegation.
A Family Court clerk confirmed the contempt of court hearing had been cancelled, and the judge is withholding sentencing. See the latest court filing.
Mark Sanford in court papers admitted to trespassing at Jenny Sanford's beachfront Sullivan's Island home when he visited his son on Feb. 3 to watch the Super Bowl. He has agreed to pay his ex-wife's attorney's fees.
Jenny Sanford had alleged that the former Republican governor repeatedly entered her beachfront Sullivan's Island home without her consent. She caught him leaving the house following the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, according to a court filing. See the court filings.
Jenny Sanford had sought to close Thursday's proceedings to the public. The judge refused that request, reporters had planned to cover the hearing, which would have been similar to bench trial, said one local lawyer.
"The judge (would have been) deciding guilt on the contempt of court charge and whether (Mark Sanford) violated the previous court order," said Colleen Condon, a family court attorney and Charleston County Councilwoman.
The judge could have issued a warning, ordered community service, imposed a fine or even sentenced Sanford to jail time, though stiff penalties were not likely.
The trespassing case was not the couple's first time in family court. Records show a handful of family court appearances on various matters relating to the terms of their divorce.
"It's not unusual to go back to court at least once in these contentious types of divorces," said Condon, who does not represent either Sanford.
It's also not unusual for couples to be banned from each other's homes, Condon said. That's a typical requirement, and it's sometimes violated. Judges usually only order jail time or stiff penalty if the trespassing seems malicious or presents harm to one of the parties.
"If the judge thought the trespassing was being done in a threatening manner, jail might be a possibility," Condon said.
Mark Sanford in 2009 split with Jenny Sanford when it was revealed that he used taxpayer money to fly to Argentina to visit his mistress. The couple's divorce was finalized the next year, and Mark Sanford has since proposed to his once mistress, Maria Belen Chapur.
Chapur was at Sanford's side Tuesday when he reclaimed a seat he held in Congress in the 1990s.
The affair was widely seen as a career-ender for Sanford, who was once thought to be a contender for the White House. The revelations that he violated the terms of his divorce when he trespassed at Jenny Sanford's home nearly sidelined his political comeback.
Though donors withdrew funds, Sanford still handily won Tuesday's race in a 55 to 45 margin against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch.