- Associated Press - Friday, June 23, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The prosecutor who has overseen an investigation into corruption at the South Carolina Statehouse for three years can remain on the case, a judge ruled Friday.

The latest lawmaker indicted in the probe, Rep. Rick Quinn Jr., had asked a judge to kick Solicitor David Pascoe off the investigation because the prosecutor saw documents between Quinn and his lawyers during a March raid by state agents, which Quinn said undermined the integrity of the justice system.

Circuit Judge Knox McMahon said agents were careful to put any document that appeared to be between Quinn Jr. and his lawyers into an envelope without closely reading it.

A team of prosecutors not involved in Quinn’s case will review the papers and only show Pascoe what they would be allowed to see under the search warrant. Defense attorneys can also have a role in that process, McMahon ruled.

To have pulled Pascoe off the case, “the misconduct should be such that shocks the conscious,” McMahon said. “It does not shock my conscious.”

State Law Enforcement Division agents in March raided a Columbia office where Quinn Jr. ran a mail order business and his father, Richard Quinn Sr., had his political consulting business.

Quinn Jr. was later indicted on two counts of misconduct in office, with prosecutors saying the two businesses are intertwined and the Republican lawmaker took $4.6 million from huge South Carolina companies and other interests that did business with his father and lobbied on their behalf. Richard Quinn Sr. has not been charged as the investigation continues.

Quinn Jr. said the judge denying his request to get rid of Pascoe was just the first step of a journey that will eventually lead to his innocence.

“I’ve worked hard to build a reputation of integrity and honesty. All of these allegations are actions I had approved by regulatory authorities who are responsible for approving those activities or the allegations are false,” Quinn Jr. told reporters outside the courtroom.

Pascoe did not talk to reporters after the hearing, but has disputed Quinn’s assertions in court previously.

Many of the accusations against Quinn, who served as House Majority Leader from 1999 to 2004, are similar to those against former House Majority Leader Jim Merrill, who held the leadership position from 2004 to 2008. Merrill has also adamantly denied doing anything illegal.

Pascoe’s probe also has led to an indictment against Sen. John Courson, who authorities said funneled $130,000 of campaign donations through Quinn Sr.’s consulting firm and then back into his own pocket for personal use.

Courson also has maintained his innocence. No trial dates have been set. Quinn, Merrill and Courson have all been suspended from office.

The ongoing corruption probe also led to a guilty plea from former House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who was given probation in 2014 for six misdemeanor campaign-spending violations.

All four lawmakers charged so far are Republicans. Pascoe ran for solicitor as a Democrat, which Quinn and others have suggested means that his actions are politically motivated. Pascoe has vehemently denied that allegation in court.


Follow Jeffrey Collins at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP . See his work at https://apnews.com/search/jeffrey%20collins

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