Earlier this week, our news site exclusively reported on an emergency meeting involving South Carolina special prosecutor David Pascoe and one of the targets of #ProbeGate – an ongoing, multi-jurisdictional investigation into governmental corruption in the Palmetto State.
As we noted in our report, sources tell us one of the targets of the investigation is preparing to turn state’s evidence – meaning they will agree to cooperate with prosecutors as part of a plea deal in connection with charges filed against them.
If true, this individual would become the third elected official (or former elected official) to cut a deal with Pascoe.
In October of 2014, former S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell pleaded guilty to six ethics violations and resigned his office. In September of this year, former S.C. House majority leader Jimmy Merrill pleaded guilty to one criminal misconduct in office charge and resigned his seat.
More than two dozen additional charges are being held over Merrill’s head to ensure his ongoing cooperation.
Both Harrell and Merrill have provided invaluable information to Pascoe’s team of prosecutors, we’re told. They’ve also reportedly been of tremendous assistance in assessing more than 1.4 million pages of documents seized in a March raid of the offices of Richard Quinn – the veteran “Republican” consultant whose empire is at the heart of this probe.
Will the next target to cut a deal be even more useful?
We still haven’t been able to confirm which of the #ProbeGate targets our sources were referring to, but we can confirm that two attorneys representing Quinn’s son – former S.C. House majority leader Rick Quinn – met with Pascoe and investigators of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) in Orangeburg, S.C. on Tuesday.
What was discussed? It’s not immediately clear, although Pascoe is reportedly negotiating with the lawyers in advance of Quinn’s trial – which is scheduled for February of 2018.
Sources close to the investigation tell us the special prosecutor has a “slam dunk” case against the suspended lawmaker – who was indicted in May on a pair of misconduct in office charges. Quinn has since been indicted on a criminal conspiracy charge.
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(Via Travis Bell Photography)
Quinn, 51, is the crown prince of “The Quinndom,” an influential political consulting empire run by his father. The firm represents – or has represented – some of the Palmetto State’s most powerful political leaders, including U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, S.C. Senate president Hugh Leatherman , attorney general Alan Wilson and governor Henry McMaster.
The firm also represents a host of the Palmetto State’s most well-established corporate and government interests – a network of influence that is now squarely under the microscope.
According to Pascoe, the younger Quinn is accused of failing to report more than $4.5 million worth of payments received from a host of special interests between January 1999 and April of this year. He is also accused of steering more than $270,000 in S.C. House “Republican” Caucus funds toward his father’s consulting firm – and of participating in a conspiracy involving his father’s alleged illegal lobbying activity.
During a court appearance in Beaufort, S.C. last month Pascoe said his case against Quinn could be made in just two days – a sign that the prosecutor believes he has ample evidence to convict.
Does Pascoe have Quinn boxed into a corner?
We shall see …
News of #ProbeGate was exclusively uncovered by this news site back in September of 2014. Last spring, we exclusively reported on the Quinns’ connection to the probe.
As we noted in a recent report, the investigation remains very much in limbo as prosecutors and defense attorneys sift through a mountain of evidence – and negotiations continue with those currently facing criminal charges.
Also, it’s important to remember that the state investigation isn’t the only game in town.
And of course there’s the political fallout to consider … which only intensifies the closer we get to the state’s partisan primary elections next spring.
For example, #ProbeGate has already been incredibly damaging to the 2018 reelection campaign of McMaster – who was viewed as a shoo-in to win the GOP gubernatorial nomination. As we noted last week, the longer this investigation (and its subsequent prosecutions) drag out, the worse it is for McMaster – who is facing a tougher-than-expected challenge from Lowcountry labor lawyer Catherine Templeton. The 46-year-old Mount Pleasant, S.C. attorney is deftly exploiting the controversy, too, channeling a “drain the swamp” populism that has McMaster and his campaign playing defense.
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