- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Attorneys are getting a bit more time to submit briefs to a judge mulling a request to remove South Carolina’s attorney general from the ethics case of House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

Last week, Circuit Judge Casey Manning originally said he’d give attorneys for Harrell and Attorney General Alan Wilson until March 26 to submit briefs over the request. But Bart Daniel, an attorney for Harrell, now says that deadline has been extended until Friday.

The State Grand Jury is considering whether Harrell should be indicted. The case stems from allegations he used his office to boost his finances by using influence to get a permit for his pharmaceutical business and improperly appointed his brother to a judicial candidate screening committee.

The South Carolina Policy Council, a libertarian think tank, brought the allegations to Wilson. The prosecutor then forwarded the matter to the State Law Enforcement Division and is now in the process of presenting those findings to the State Grand Jury.

Harrell’s attorneys, Daniel and Gedney Howe, have said Wilson should be removed from the case, saying the prosecutor tried to intimidate the speaker into supporting pending legislation while the state police investigation into the ethics case was ongoing.

In a hearing last week over the request to remove Wilson, Harrell’s chief of staff testified about a private meeting he had with Wilson. In the prosecutor’s office, Brad Wright said Wilson mentioned SLED’s ongoing inquiry and referenced the proposal that Harrell come out in favor of the bill as an “olive branch.”

Wilson has said he made no threats and only wanted the bill to be passed. In court last week, the prosecutor testified that he typically speaks with lawmakers about pending legislation and only met with Wright, not his boss, to avoid any appearance of impropriety, given the fact that SLED was investigating Harrell.

By law, matters are presented to the State Grand Jury in secret, but Manning said the law also requires that hearings like the one that occurred Friday should be open to the public. Harrell has previously characterized the allegations against him as driven by a “personal and political vendetta” and last week called on Wilson to publicly release state investigators’ findings.

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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