SC Supreme Court Two-Step?
IS ALAN WILSON’S INVESTIGATION OF BOBBY HARRELL IN TROUBLE?
Two weeks ago the S.C. Supreme Court issued a surprise ruling in the public corruption case of embattled S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell.
The court – widely believed to be in Harrell’s back pocket – shocked political observers when it ruled that the investigation of Harrell by S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson could continue. That decision reversed a previous ruling by circuit court judge Casey Manning – who had attempted to throw Wilson’s investigation over to the notoriously corrupt S.C. House “Ethics” Committee (the legislative panel that whitewashed S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley‘s ethics scandal two years ago).
On its surface, the court’s ruling was a clear victory for Wilson – affirming his right “to initiate a criminal investigation in any way, whether or not there is a referral, or even a pending House investigation.”
But as we noted in our coverage of the ruling, there was a catch …
While affirming the right of the Attorney General’s office to probe Harrell, the justices sent back to Manning a standing request from Harrell’s attorneys to remove Wilson personally as the lead prosecutor on the case.
“Harrell’s lawyers will now have the opportunity to go back to the circuit court and argue for Wilson’s removal from the case – a decision Manning has now been cleared to issue,” we wrote in the wake of the ruling.
Harrell’s attorneys have previously argued (absent any supporting evidence whatsoever) that Wilson’s prosecution of Harrell is politically motivated – a view seemingly embraced by S.C. chief justice Jean Toal.
Toal has publicly stated that she found Wilson’s handling of the case “very strange” and said she had “never seen” an Attorney General so active in discussing grand jury matters in the press.
Last time we checked, Wilson’s handling of the Harrell case has been 100 percent by the book. If anything, he’s refrained from trying the case in the media – often to his detriment from a public relations standpoint.
Seriously … only in a state as corrupt as South Carolina would the guy trying to root out public corruption be put on trial!
Nonetheless during arguments before the Supreme Court last month, Harrell attorney Bobby Stepp flatly accused Wilson of attempting to try his client in the press.
“The press releases, the public statements, the fact that the attorney general has consistently commented about allegations of criminal activity involving Mr. Harrell, has severely prejudiced him,” Stepp said. “It has severely clouded the atmosphere of all of this case.”
When Wilson’s deputy attorney general attempted to provide the court with documentation to the contrary, he was rudely cut off by Toal.
“You don’t need to go there,” Toal said.
Had Wilson’s deputy been allowed to finish, the court might have learned that Wilson’s press releases in the Harrell matter have been identical to those issued during his office’s 2012 investigation of former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard – as well as grand jury investigations conducted by prior Attorneys General.
Also, Wilson hasn’t “consistently commented” on the case. He’s really only spoken out on it once (responding to Judge Manning’s controversial ruling two months ago). And nothing Wilson has said in any of his public comments or statements has come even close to “severely clouding the atmosphere” of the case.
In fact much to the frustration of news sites like this one, Wilson has never once talked out of school about the Harrell matter.
The notion that Alan Wilson has some sort of vendetta against Harrell is laughable – but that doesn’t change the fact that Toal’s comments give Manning all the ammunition he needs to issue a ruling removing Wilson from the case.
If he’s so inclined …
Hopefully that won’t happen … but Manning has shown in the past his rulings cannot be trusted.
One thing is clear: If Wilson is removed from this investigation – and that decision is upheld by the Supreme Court – then South Carolina is even more corrupt than we thought it was. Which is saying something.