COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - New details have emerged about a party where Olympic champion Michael Phelps was spotted.
On Feb. 2, a British tabloid published a picture of the 14-time Olympic gold medalist using a water pipe to smoke marijuana. The picture was taken at a party in Columbia back in November when Phelps was here for a visit.
The Richland County Sheriff's Department has been taking a lot of heat from people in this country and all over the world.
They want to know why Sheriff Leon Lott is going after Michael Phelps.
Many are saying the sheriff should concentrate on more serious crimes, or at the very least, not focus solely on the Olympic champion when there were others at the party who were also breaking the law.
Now it appears the case has expanded beyond Phelps' activities.
The party took place in November at a house on Blossom Street near Five Points.
It was at that house where someone snapped the photo of Phelps taking a hit on a marijuana pipe called a bong.
Lott says the picture indicated a law was being broken in his jurisdiction. He said he couldn't ignore the violation just because Phelps is rich and famous.
We've now learned that since investigators began trying to build a case, they've made eight arrests: seven for drug possession and one for distribution. These are arrests that resulted as the sheriff's department served search warrants.
We've also learned that the department has located and confiscated that bong.
Sources say the owner of the bong was trying to sell it on eBay for as much as $100,000.
The owner, who wasn't even at the party, is one of the eight now charged.
Phelps is not one of those charged at this point, but the sheriff's department has strong evidence that matches the photo to the house on Blossom Street.
That house is in the city, but the Columbia Police Department decided not to initiate or take an active role in the investigation.
Governor Mark Sanford is also weighing in on the sheriff's actions.
On the FOX News Channel Sunday night, Geraldo Rivera asked Sanford whether Phelps should be prosecuted.
"I don't see what it gets at this point," said Sanford.
His spokesman told us Monday night Sanford is letting that quote stand."
By Jack Kuenzie
Posted: Feb 9, 2009 03:52 PM