ALAN WILSON: INVESTIGATION UNCOVERED “POTENTIAL CRIMINAL MATTERS”
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson fought to continue his criminal investigation of powerful S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell – arguing that removing the case from a statewide grand jury and throwing it to a cover-up committee run by Harrell’s peers in the S.C. House would amount to “legislative criminal immunity.”
More damning for Harrell – whose Speakership is on the line – it appears as though the public has yet to hear the full story of his shady dealings.
Specifically, Wilson told circuit court judge Casey Manning that a S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigation uncovered additional information related to “potential criminal matters.” That means Harrell’s corruption likely extends beyond the specific activity we already know about.
Harrell’s attorneys disputed that contention – as well as Wilson’s “immunity” claim, stating that they merely wished for “proper procedure” to be following in the case.
Their definition of “proper procedure?” Having Judge Manning throw the entire case back to Harrell’s minions – as he is expected to do.
Two years ago Manning threw a corruption case involving Gov. Nikki Haley back to the S.C. House Ethics Committee due to the governor’s status as a former lawmaker. Haley was caught red-handed lobbying illegally, but was cleared of wrongdoing following a show trial in the House.
Manning is expected to use his Haley ruling as precedent in the Harrell case. More importantly, as FITS has exclusively documented, Harrell personally used his authority to get Manning’s boss – S.C. chief justice Jean Toal – reelected to her position earlier this year.
Throughout the hearing, Manning repeatedly goaded Wilson and his staff regarding the nature of the investigation into Harrell.
“You say criminal, complaint says ethics,” Manning asked one of Wilson’s deputy prosecutors.
“No it doesn’t but that’s for a prosecutor to determine, your honor,” the deputy responded.
Still … Manning repeatedly sought to frame the Harrell case as an “ethics” matter, as opposed to a case of public corruption that has risen to the criminal level. In other words, it appears as though the deck is stacked against Wilson in his efforts to hold Harrell accountable for his actions.
What has Harrell done?
Beginning in 2012, the powerful lawmaker was busted improperly reimbursing himself from his campaign account for dubious flight-related expenses (Harrell is a pilot). How much? More than $325,000.
He also stands accused of applying improper pressure on the S.C. Pharmacy Board and the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (SCLLR) on behalf of his pharmaceutical business – using his official letterhead, no less. Additionally, Harrell’s political action committee is under scrutiny for allegedly misappropriating and misreporting funds – including an effort to force taxpayers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars on an unnecessary transportation project.
And as we’ve stated repeatedly from the beginning of this process, that’s just the corruption we know about.
Harrell is guilty as sin: In fact he’s effectively admitted his guilt on the first count by returning $23,000 of his dubious reimbursements.
He’s also responded like a criminal – lying and refusing to release his records, assassinating the character of one of the reporters who investigated him and then strong-arming her newspaper into backing down (by allegedly threatening to withhold an annual bribe the paper receives from the S.C. General Assembly).
Harrell has also launched a vendetta against Wilson in the wake of his decision to refer the case to the grand jury (FITS has previously reported on several components of that effort – HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE).
We believe Manning must permit Wilson’s investigation to continue. Anything short of that is to perpetuate the sort of institutional tolerance of naked corruption that we witnessed during the Haley whitewash. Just as importantly, lawmakers must surrender their ability to police themselves – as we have called upon them to do for several years now.
UPDATE: Three former S.C. Attorneys General – Henry McMaster, Charlie Condon and Travis Medlock – appeared in court in support of Wilson.