- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 23, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A Republican South Carolina lawmaker charged with lobbing for clients while in office said Tuesday outside a courtroom that his prosecution was a politically motivated feud. Inside the courtroom, his lawyers argued to kick the prosecutor off the case.

Former Majority Leader Rick Quinn Jr. pointed out that Solicitor David Pascoe, elected as a Democrat, has indicted only four Republican lawmakers during a nearly three-year investigation into Statehouse corruption. He called Pascoe “a Democrat prosecutor who wants to be the Republican attorney general.”

“If Mr. Pascoe really believed there was illegal activity, I’m curious as to why he hasn’t indicted Democrats who did the very same thing I did as majority leader - not the least of which is reporting. We all report the same,” Quinn said.

Inside the courtroom, Quinn’s lawyers were trying to get a judge to remove Pascoe from the case, arguing the prosecutor saw documents seized in a raid on a business run by Quinn’s father that were from the father and son’s attorneys - communication that is constitutionally protected from law enforcement in a criminal case.

Pascoe vigorously denied looking at anything he was not supposed to see, saying his investigation has been stalled somewhat for 82 days because he wanted to be extra careful with the documents collected because he figured there would be a challenge.

After listening to several hours of testimony, Circuit Judge Knox McMahon gave both sides two weeks to submit written arguments before he would rule.

The arguments came in a case that has seen one conviction and three pending trials and has been filled with political intrigue. The millions of dollars collected and spent by the Quinns on clients’ behalf have become central to the probe. Richard Quinn Sr., a veteran GOP strategist, owns consulting and marketing firms. Rep. Rick Quinn, also a political consultant, owns a direct-mail business. The Quinns have long contended they keep their businesses and clients separate. But last week’s indictment against Quinn Jr. alleges he has an economic interest in all of them. His father has not been charged.

A longtime client of Quinn Sr. is Attorney General Alan Wilson, who turned the investigation over to Pascoe in 2014 when then-House Speaker Bobby Harrell was indicted because he was worried about a conflict of interest. Wilson unsuccessfully fought to get the probe back under his control when Pascoe sought to expand it to other lawmakers.

“I believe my family is a victim of really a feud between the two of them,” Quinn Jr. said.

The younger Quinn was indicted on two counts of misconduct in office last week. Pascoe said in court Tuesday the Quinns’ firms accepted nearly $4.6 million from huge South Carolina companies and institutions including utility SCANA, the University of South Carolina and the State Ports Authority and didn’t report the income and lobbied on the company’s interests while voting on their behalf.

The indictments also said when Quinn was majority leader from 1999 to 2004, he sent more than $270,000 in business from the House Republican Caucus to his and his father’s firms. Quinn’s lawyers said he sought opinions from the attorney general and House lawyers who said that activity was legal.

Pascoe argued to stay on the case. The State Law Enforcement Division agent who supervised a raid on the Quinns’ business in Columbia in March testified he told any agent who saw a document that looked in any way like it was addressed to or came from a lawyer to give it to him and he sealed it in an envelope. Four other agents gave similar testimony.

Pascoe said he assigned two other solicitors that haven’t been associated with the case so far to work on a “taint team” to review the documents so he wouldn’t see anything he shouldn’t.

Questioning from Quinn lawyers indicate they think SLED agent Richard Gregory and others were sloppy and Pascoe saw documents between them and the Quinns.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP

His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/jeffrey%20collins

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