South Carolina first circuit solicitor David Pascoe has reportedly handed off several “high value targets” in his ongoing #ProbeGate investigation to federal prosecutors, multiple sources familiar with this ongoing, multi-jurisdictional criminal inquiry told us.
It’s not immediately clear who these “high value targets” are, or what sort of charges they may be facing … but we’re told answers to those questions are expected prior to January 1.
According to our sources, Pascoe’s decision to hand off these particular cases was based on an effort to avoid any insinuation that politics might be motivating his handling of the investigation. The special prosecutor also reportedly decided to hand over the cases in an effort to remain within the confines of his original July 2015 referral from South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson – who has drawn strong criticism for his prior meddling with the probe.
To recap: This news site exclusively reported on the existence of this investigation back in September 2014. Since then, #ProbeGate has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride – and a wrecking ball.
In October 2014, then-S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell – arguably the most powerful man in state government – resigned his office and pleaded guilty to six counts of violating state ethics law.
Harrell’s downfall – allegedly engineered by forces loyal to veteran “Republican” political consultant Richard Quinn – was the first phase of the investigation.
According to our sources, that’s when the hunters became the hunted.
In what appeared to be an effort to defend his political allies, Wilson blocked Pascoe last March when the latter attempted to convene a grand jury for the purpose of indicting two Quinn lieutenants. Shortly thereafter, he fired Pascoe and attempted to replace him with a different prosecutor (one who declined to take the job). His office then clumsy attempted to politicize the case – while Wilson himself angrily and baselessly attacked Pascoe’s integrity.
Pascoe took the case to the S.C. Supreme Court – and won.
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Over the past year, the corporate and political interests of the Quinns – a.k.a. the “Quinndom” – have become a clear focus of the ongoing probe. This includes a March 2017 raid on one of their corporate headquarters (and the stepped up involvement of federal authorities in its aftermath).
Meanwhile Harrell has turned state’s evidence, as has former S.C. majority leader Jimmy Merrill – who resigned his office several weeks ago prior to pleading guilty to one count of misconduct in office.
Prosecutors are holding more than two dozen additional charges over Merrill’s head to ensure his cooperation.
Pascoe has also survived a second attempt to have him removed from the case – one in which he was directly accused of “prosecutorial bias.”
Last month, another round of indictments dropped in connection with the ongoing investigation – with Pascoe providing damning details of alleged pay-to-play activity in open court.
Pascoe made repeated references to the Quinns’ once-expansive client roster during Tuesday’s hearing – specifically referencing BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Palmetto Health, the government-run S.C. State Ports Authority (SCPA), the University of South Carolina, telecom giant AT&T of South Carolina, and embattled utility SCANA, which is currently at the heart of a separate multi-jurisdictional investigation.
The feds have been involved in the #ProbeGate investigation from the very beginning, but their role has been shrouded in secrecy – and in some cases, controversy.
Last September, for example, S.C. Speaker of the House Jay Lucas – who replaced Harrell – sent out a letter refuting claims that former U.S. attorney Bill Nettles had been hired by the House “Republican” caucus to assist in responding to the investigation.
Nettles’ attempted hiring by the caucus was exclusively reported by this news site – and the veteran prosecutor confirmed it to mainstream media outlets shortly thereafter.
“I have been asked to join the team,” Nettles told reporter Eva Moore of The (Columbia, S.C.) Free Times.
Lucas put the kibosh on that arrangement, though – a decision we supported.
“We didn’t think Nettles’ hiring was appropriate seeing as he recently stepped down as the U.S. attorney for South Carolina – a position that saw him work closely with state prosecutors in several anti-corruption cases,” we noted at the time.
Stay tuned … if we receive any additional information on which cases Pascoe reportedly handed over to the feds, we’ll let our readers know.
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