Former South Carolina majority leader Jimmy Merrill formally resigned his office on Thursday … less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to appear in court in connection with #ProbeGate, a multi-jurisdictional investigation into corruption in state government.
Sources close to the office of S.C. Speaker of the House Jay Lucas confirmed that Merrill’s letter of resignation was received by clerk of the House Charles Reid late Thursday afternoon. A copy of the letter was not immediately available, but as soon as we obtain one we will pass it along to our readers.
Merrill’s resignation all but ensures that he has reached a plea agreement guaranteeing his cooperation in the ongoing investigation being led by S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe.
If so, he would join former S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell as the second high-profile state’s witness in this probe – which was exclusively unearthed by this website back in September of 2014. Harrell resigned his office in October of 2014 and has been cooperating with prosecutors ever since.
Eight-and-a-half months ago, Merrill was slapped with a thirty-count indictment alleging some damning pay-to-play activity and some dubious money transfers involving a company run by his brother, Denver Merrill. If convicted on all of the charges filed against him, he could have been facing more than sixty years behind bars.
It’s not immediately clear what the particulars of his plea agreement will be … but based on the amount of jail time he was facing he will be lucky to avoid the slammer.
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Merrill initially disputed the charges filed against him …
“He is eager to present numerous legal and factual defenses to each and every one of these charges,” his attorneys told The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper at the time. “We believe they are based on very fundamental misunderstandings of the law that would apply and are based on serious mistakes of the fact and misunderstandings of the law.”
Clearly he thought better of that approach …
Merrill was suspended from office immediately following his indictment. Prior to his resignation, he had represented S.C. House District 99 (map) in the S.C. General Assembly since 2001. The district incorporates parts of Charleston and Berkeley counties.
A special election will be held on January 16 to fill the expired portion of Merrill’s term. Two candidates – Daniel Island attorney Shawn Pinkston (story here) and Mount Pleasant, S.C. undertaker and town councilman Mark M. Smith (story here) – have already announced their intentions to file for the seat.
In a preview of that race published two weeks ago, we hinted that a plea deal could be in the works for Merrill.
“Over the past few weeks, speculation has been swirling that Merrill is on the verge of reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors to ensure his cooperation in connection with the ongoing investigation,” we reported.
After his indictment, Merrill all but vanished from the statewide stage. Sources close to the suspended lawmaker told us he rarely left his Daniel Island home and had become “deeply depressed.” He’s also been shunned by many of his former political allies – including supporters of U.S. president Donald Trump, whose 2016 “First in the South” presidential primary campaign Merrill helped lead to a resounding victory.
As we reported earlier today, sources close to this ongoing investigation tell us Merrill’s cooperation could provide Pascoe and his fellow prosecutors with a treasure trove of new information related to the political empire of veteran “Republican” political consultant Richard Quinn, whose advocacy on behalf of a host of political and corporate clients appears to be at the heart of this investigation.
What sort of information could Merrill conceivably provide?
“Only the inner workings of their business,” one source close to the probe told us. “How they got clients, how they lobbied for clients, etc.”
Exclusively uncovered by this website back in 2014, #ProbeGate has produced indictments against Harrell, Merrill, State Senator John Courson and state representative Rick Quinn (the son of Richard Quinn).
According to a press release from Pascoe’s office, Merrill will appear before S.C. circuit court judge Robert Hood at the Richland County, S.C. judicial center in downtown Columbia at 11:00 a.m. EDT on Friday (September 1).
Stay tuned …
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