THE LAW IS ON HIS SIDE … AS IS WILSON’S OWN INTENT
Let’s forget for a moment the unseemly politics, seemingly deliberate obstructionism and borderline unhinged “justifications” associated with S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson‘s ongoing efforts to sidetrack an investigation into public corruption among members of the S.C. General Assembly.
We’ve already weighed in on all of that … and it took us virtually no time at all to reach what we believe to be the correct conclusion.
At the end of the day, though, none of those considerations will matter to the five individuals who will determine whether this investigation is allowed to proceed … or is stopped in its tracks at its penultimate moment.
What matters – or should matter – to the five justices of the S.C. Supreme Court is the law governing the statewide grand jury.
Ready for the twist? This law was substantially modified last June – with Wilson serving as the lead advocate for this so-called “grand jury reform.”
You can read the new law here, but the gist of it is pretty simple: S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe has the right to proceed with this investigation.
In fact, here’s the relevant passage from the revised statute …
The state grand jury may continue with its investigation and the Attorney General or the solicitor or his designee may continue to serve as legal advisor to the state grand jury with all authority, functions, and responsibilities set forth in this article …
Catch that line?
“Or the solicitor or his designee.”
Pascoe is Wilson’s designee. In fact he has been for the last eight months.
“Out of an abundance of caution, (Wilson) has designated Solicitor Pascoe to handle any matters involving certain legislative members,” Wilson’s office wrote last July in recusing himself from the case.
Wilson never identified the lawmakers in question, nor did he ever explain why he was conflicted, but his action triggered the section of the new law in which the solicitor “assumes (Wilson’s) functions and duties pursuant to this article.”
Among these “functions and duties?” The authority to “examine witnesses, present evidence, and draft indictments and reports upon the direction of a state grand jury.”
In other words, we are talking about precisely the sort of prosecutorial authority Wilson is now attempting to subvert – in direct contravention of his previously acknowledged conflicts of interest.
In addition to the language of the law, we have the matter of intent – specifically Wilson’s explicit attempt to preserve the integrity of the investigation by removing himself from it.
“It provides for a mechanism to keep him out of the case,” one Columbia, S.C. attorney familiar with the statutes told us. “That’s why it’s ludicrous to believe he has to sign off on the grand jury slip.”
Wilson is claiming Pascoe is “tainted,” but he has offered absolutely nothing to support this contention.
“The only proof Wilson offered for any of this was leaks to the media about the ongoing investigation – and he would not even accuse Pascoe of personally making them,” reporter Brian Hicks of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier recently noted.
Hicks also concurs that Wilson cannot “un-recuse” himself in the case.
“How is it recusing yourself if you get to decide – without seeing the evidence – if a case merits a trip to the grand jury?” he wrote.
Indeed … especially given Wilson’s previously acknowledged conflicts, which are widely presumed to stem from his proximity to the neo-Confederate political empire of Richard Quinn and Associates.
It is abundantly clear at this point Wilson is actively seeking to subvert this investigation. That’s the bad news.
The good news? It is also abundantly clear – based on the law and based on Wilson’s own intent – that he has absolutely no right to do so.
Assuming it is so inclined (and we hope it is not), the S.C. Supreme Court would have to go to great lengths in order to justify Wilson’s current obstructionism. Not only that, such a ruling would have long-term and exceedingly adverse impacts on the integrity of future public corruption investigations – to say nothing of the public trust.