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ALAN WILSON’S GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION CAN GO ON … FOR NOW

With a bare minimum of comment, the S.C. Supreme Court deflected a request from S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson for a “writ of supersedeas” in the case against powerful S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell.

Wilson had sought the writ as part of his appeal of a lower court ruling endeavoring to shut down his grand jury probe of Harrell’s alleged public corruption.

Yet while deflecting Wilson’s specific request, the court correctly ruled that the investigation of Harrell can continue pending the Attorney General’s appeal.

“The order on appeal is automatically stayed,” the court’s five justices wrote unanimously, referring to the lower court ruling.

Two weeks ago, S.C. Circuit Court judge Casey Manning ruled that Harrell’s public corruption case could only be heard by the S.C. House Ethics Committee – a legislative cover-up panel which is comprised of members subject to the direct authority of the Speaker. Manning ruled similarly two years ago when compelling evidence of criminal activity involving S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley was uncovered:  He sent the evidence to a jury of the governor’s peers (who returned predictable results).

However in this case, Manning’s ruling was allegedly issued under duress – despite Wilson making it clear his probe had uncovered likely criminal activity beyond what has already been alleged in public complaints against the powerful Speaker.

Oh, and despite the fact Manning was the judge who signed off on the grand jury investigation in the first place …

Harrell is in hot water for a variety of abuses.  For starters he reimbursed himself more than $325,000 from his campaign account for dubious flight-related expenses (Harrell is a pilot). In fact he has effectively admitted his guilt by returning $23,000 of these reimbursements – although a proper accounting of his flight-related costs would require him to reimburse tens of thousands more.

Harrell 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.

Oh, and his political action committee is also 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 again … that’s just the corruption we know about.

While Wilson is the winner in this ruling, we don’t expect him to prevail when the S.C. Supreme Court ultimately decides this matter. After all, Harrell was instrumental in securing S.C. Chief Justice Jean Toal’s recent reelection – and most expect she will fulfill her end of the quid pro quo by upholding Manning’s ruling and referring Harrell’s corruption case to his hand-picked cover-up committee in the S.C. House.