PALMETTO STATE’S HIGH COURT SET TO RULE …
The S.C. Supreme Court is expected to rule within days on #ProbeGate – the high-stakes political/ legal drama that has ensnared the Palmetto State’s top prosecutor in a major obstruction of justice scandal.
Many politicos believed a ruling would be issued late Friday … but the court did not publish anything related to the case.
Here’s the 30,000-foot view of the situation: Last summer, S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson recused himself from participating in an ongoing federal-state investigation of alleged corruption among powerful lawmakers at the S.C. State House. In late December, though, he attempted to steer this probe in a direction that would have benefitted several of his influential political allies – including former S.C. majority leader Rick Quinn and the powerful lawmaker’s father, neo-Confederate “Republican” political consultant Richard Quinn.
When his efforts failed, Wilson attempted to prevent the prosecutor he appointed to handle the probe – first circuit solicitor David Pascoe – from convening a grand jury to issue indictments in the case. Then he fired Pascoe and attempted to replace him with a different prosecutor (who declined to take the job).
Crazy, huh? Yes … and that was just the beginning.
Compounding his problems, Wilson decided to hold a disastrous press conference in which he angrily attempted to impugn Pascoe’s integrity. The only problem? He offered absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support his contention that Pascoe was “tainted.”
Wilson also neglected to mention that the head of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the circuit court judge with jurisdiction over the case both sided with Pascoe.
Next, Wilson’s office was busted in a clumsy attempt to politicize the matter, lending credence to allegations that he was indeed obstructing the probe for political purposes.
The whole thing has been an unmitigated debacle for the aspiring politician … prompting a flurry of speculation as to what, exactly, he was (or is) so desperate to keep under wraps.
So far … we’re stumped. This website has reported extensively (and exclusively) on the contents of the December 2013 SLED report that initiated Pascoe’s ongoing probe – and while there are multiple ethics violations contained in the report, we have seen nothing that would even remotely warrant Wilson’s full-on freakout.
Sources close to the court – currently comprised of chief justice Costa Pleicones and associate justices Donald Beatty, John Kittredge, Kaye Hearn and John Few – tell us a ruling is “imminent.”
At issue? Whether Wilson had the right to remove Pascoe from the case – and whether Wilson can legally block Pascoe from empaneling of a grand jury.
Our view? He can do neither.
In fact Wilson should know this better than anyone. Just last year he successfully pushed for reforms to the statewide grand jury that expressly permit “the solicitor or his designee” to serve as “legal advisor to the state grand jury with all authority, functions, and responsibilities” set forth by law.
Among those authorities? The ability to “examine witnesses, present evidence, and draft indictments and reports upon the direction of a state grand jury.”
Pascoe is Wilson’s designee … and has been since last summer.
“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.
Unfortunately, Wilson did not recuse himself.
In fact, filings before the S.C. Supreme Court reveal the extent to which his office has been improperly interfering with this investigation for months.
That goes against the law – and Wilson’s own clearly-expressed intent.
Exclusively unearthed by this website in September 2014 – “the probe” has already brought down powerful former S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, who pleaded guilty to six ethics-related counts, resigned his office and got three years of probation in October 2014. Harrell also signed a cooperation agreement with the government agreeing to assist investigators moving forward – and has reportedly been interviewed as recently as last month.
Our hope is that the Supreme Court will do the right thing and allow Pascoe’s investigation to proceed. As we’ve said before, South Carolina cannot afford to have another political scandal swept under the rug.
Those in power must be held accountable … both for injustices and for obstructions of justice.