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Judge dismisses case against SC Speaker Harrell
Question of the Day
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A judge on Monday dismissed allegations of corruption against House Speaker Bobby Harrell, ruling such a case must first be considered by a legislative panel before state prosecutors could touch it and saying a State Grand Jury was improperly empaneled.
State prosecutors vowed to appeal the ruling, which Harrell said was a victory in a “politically driven” pursuit.
The State Grand Jury had been considering whether Harrell, ahe powerful Charleston Republican, should be indicted on allegations he used his influence for personal benefit, including obtaining a permit for his pharmaceutical business and appointing his brother to a judicial candidate screening committee.
Ashley Landess of the South Carolina Policy Council, a libertarian-leaning think tank, brought the allegations to Attorney General Alan Wilson. The Republican prosecutor forwarded the matter to the State Law Enforcement Division and had been in the process of presenting those secret findings to the State Grand Jury.
Two public hearings were held, with Harrell’s attorneys first arguing Wilson had tried to intimidate their client into supporting certain legislation, which Wilson denied. Subsequently, the speaker’s lawyers said the whole matter should be taken out of the court system and dealt with instead by the House Ethics Committee, a legislative body empaneled to hear complaints against its own members.
“Until the South Carolina House of Representatives Ethics Committee has either referred the matter to Attorney General Wilson or has otherwise acted on the complaint, exclusive jurisdiction resides solely within the South Carolina House of Representatives Ethics Committee,” Manning wrote, saying the matter was “solely within the purview” of that panel.
In Haley’s case, in 2011, Republican activist John Rainey sued the GOP governor, accusing her of improper lobbying while working as a hospital fundraiser and for a highway engineering firm while representing Lexington in the House.
In court, Wilson said the Rainey case was different because that matter was entirely civil and initiated by a private citizen. The Harrell case - while technically flagged to prosecutors’ attention by Landess, a private individual - rose to a criminal level, with Wilson, SLED and the State Grand Jury all being involved.
“The constitution and state statutes are clear on these issues,” Harrell said. “Rather than discussing the merits of the case, the Attorney General continues to play politics.
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