South Carolina Circuit Court judge Casey Manning is expected to rule any day now whether the public corruption investigation of powerful S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell can proceed in criminal court.

In fact his ruling is expected shortly before 5:00 p.m. on Friday (May 9).

Our sources tell us the fix is already in regarding Manning’s ruling … but a seismic development could derail the Speaker’s latest effort to evade accountability for his actions.

Specifically, multiple sources tell FITS the Speaker is holding a “damning revelation” over Manning’s head – effectively blackmailing the judge into doing his bidding. We’re also told S.C. Chief Justice Jean Toal – whose reelection Harrell stands accused of rigging – is actively participating in the alleged blackmail scheme.

You read that right … the Palmetto State’s most powerful judge and its most powerful legislator have been accused of conspiring to blackmail the judge who will decide Harrell’s fate.

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson – who referred Harrell’s case to a statewide grand jury back in January – is pushing hard to continue the investigation into Harrell. According to Wilson, his probe has uncovered likely criminal activity (beyond the evidence that’s already been publicly submitted).

Harrell’s lawyers say Wilson has no authority to investigate Harrell – arguing that only the corrupt S.C. House Ethics Committee has the authority to do that.

Manning has previously ruled along those lines – sending a corruption case involving S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley to the same “cover-up committee.” Not surprisingly, that decision led to this infamous whitewash of a broad and well-documented corruption case against Haley.

Ah, justice in South Carolina …

We wonder … was Manning also blackmailed then?

When FITS first began investigating Manning in 2012, we uncovered multiple allegations of substance abuse issues – including rumors that the veteran judge had a cocaine problem. We also uncovered a relationship Manning was having with a producer at a local television station.

Could one of these things be the “dirty little secret” being held over the judge’s head?

Our founding editor is no stranger to the drug rumors surrounding Manning: He worked with him at the University of South Carolina’s sports information office in the late 1990s and was very familiar with the allegations.

The rumblings surrounding Manning intensified after an erratic appearance at a 2005 attorney’s conference – in which multiple lawyers tell us the judge appeared to be high on the drug during a presentation ceremony.

“He was as high as a kite,” one attorney who attended the trial lawyer gathering told FITS. “It was the talk of the event.”

Additionally multiple state legislators tell FITS they uncovered “substantiated drug allegations” involving Manning during his most recent legislative screening process, but were pressured to “screen him out” regardless.

Among those allegedly applying the pressure on Manning’s behalf? Harrell and Toal.

Most damning as far as we’re concerned? A source close to Harrell’s political operation confirmed to FITS that a blackmail effort involving Manning was indeed underway – and that the ruling Harrell wanted was already “in the bag.”

In fact Harrell was so confident Manning would refer his case back to the S.C. House, our source said, he was already actively plotting retribution against his political enemies.

Amazing …

Obviously what Manning does in his personal life is his business – we don’t begrudge him that. But if something in his personal life is being held over his head in such a way as to impact his official duties – that’s a very big deal.

Especially in a case of this magnitude …

Hopefully Manning will not kowtow to this sort of pressure and intimidation – particularly seeing as his retirement is imminent. Hopefully he will do the right thing and permit the investigation of Harrell to continue.

Anything short of that – regardless of the personal consequences he may endure – is cowardice.