CHIEF JUSTICE SAYS CASE IS AN “EASY DECISION”
The S.C. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in the ongoing, high-profile case between state attorney general Alan Wilson and first circuit solicitor David Pascoe.
These arguments should have been heard weeks ago … but that’s another story.
At issue? Which prosecutor has the authority to advance – or in Wilson’s case, obstruct – a criminal investigation into public corruption at the S.C. State House.
To recap: In late March, Wilson blocked the empaneling of a grand jury likely to indict several sitting lawmakers on corruption charges. Shortly thereafter Wilson fired Pascoe and attempted to replace him with a different prosecutor (one who declined to take the job). Wilson’s office then clumsy attempted to politicize the case – while Wilson himself angrily (and baselessly) attacked Pascoe’s integrity.
All of this brinksmanship came despite the fact that Wilson – citing undisclosed conflicts of interest – had twice appointed Pascoe as his designee in pursuing corruption cases against sitting members of the S.C. General Assembly.
So … why is Wilson blocking the probe? And destroying his once-promising political career in the process?
Many believe he is attempting to protect the interests of influential “Republican” neo-Confederate consultant Richard Quinn. Quinn and his son, S.C. Rep. Rick Quinn, were mentioned in redacted sections of a 2013 S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) report examining State House corruption.
That report is said to have initiated the current phase of the investigation.
Both Quinns are key Wilson allies … not to mention advisors to other powerful politicians.
Wilson has yet to offer up a compelling reason why he is seeking to “un-recuse” himself in this case. Instead his attorney, Mitch Brown, focused exclusively on the argument that only Wilson had the authority to convene a grand jury.
That’s not true, though. In fact according to a 2015 grand jury reform law pushed by Wilson himself, his designee has the same power.
“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,” the law stated.
Catch that line?
“The attorney general or the solicitor or his designee.”
Pascoe is Wilson’s designee. In fact he has been on this particular case for nearly a year.
“The attorney general’s office had this case for nineteen months and did nothing with it,” Pascoe said, according to coverage of the hearing provided by Meghan Kinnard of the Associated Press.
That time frame could finally be ramping up.
According to Kinnard’s report, S.C. chief justice Costa Pleicones hinted that a speedy ruling could be forthcoming from the court – which took the case in original jurisdiction (i.e. bypassing lower courts).
“Thank you for presenting us with this easy decision,” he said at the close of oral arguments.
The facts of this case are clearly in Pascoe’s favor – and have been all along. Same with the political optics – a trend that continued at Thursday’s hearing.
Pascoe argued his own case and walked out of the front door of the court when the hearing had concluded. Wilson had another attorney argue his case for him (costing taxpayers an undisclosed amount of money) and skulked out the back door at the end of the hearing.