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#ProbeGate: Rick Quinn Gets Off

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The crown prince of the most influential political empire in modern South Carolina history was sentenced to two years of probation on Monday morning for his role in an ongoing corruption scandal.

That’s right … no jail time.

Rick Quinn, a former S.C. House majority leader, was sentenced by circuit court judge Carmen Mullen during a contentious ten-minute hearing in Beaufort County, S.C.

Two months ago, the 52-year-old former powerbroker pleaded guilty to one count of misconduct in office stemming from his role in #ProbeGate – an ongoing, multi-jurisdictional investigation into corruption in state government exclusively unearthed by this news site nearly three-and-a-half years ago.

The prosecutor in the case – S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe – had asked Mullen to lock Quinn up for a full year (the maximum prison time associated with his charge) in the hopes of sending “a message” to other corrupt lawmakers.

She declined to jail him at all …

Instead, Quinn was fined $1,000 and sentenced to 500 hours of community service.

“Crime does pay,” one veteran state lawmaker told us in response to the verdict.

In addition to refusing to jail Quinn, Mullen repeatedly rebuffed Pascoe’s efforts to revisit his plea agreement – which has become the focus of significant controversy after our exclusive report last month.

Pascoe objected to Quinn being sentenced on the grounds that the plea he entered was invalid.  Mullen told him to sit down and file an appeal.

“The plea is valid,” the judge told Pascoe – saying it was “clear” Quinn admitted to his crime.

Pascoe told Mullen she was making a mistake.

#ProbeGate has centered around powerful corporate and governmental interests represented by the consulting firm of Quinn’s influential father – “Republican” political strategist Richard Quinn.  The elder Quinn was facing a criminal conspiracy charge – however it was dropped in December as part of his son’s plea deal.

On Monday, the elder Quinn’s firm was fined $2,500 and ordered to pay $3,000 restitution related to an improper lobbying charge leveled against the company.

“Richard Quinn, Sr. has been totally vindicated,” his attorney Deborah Barbier told reporters after the hearing.

Legally, perhaps …

Over the course of the #ProbeGate investigation, Pascoe has painted a damning picture of how wealthy interests paid the elder Quinn’s firm to leverage the influence of various elected officials in its orbit.  In fact just days before Quinn’s hearing, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier broke a story detailing how a wealthy association of trial lawyers hired “the Quinndom” to help block a tort reform bill pushed by former governor Nikki Haley.

“We hired Richard and Rick for which they get paid about $100,000 a year,” one of the emails bluntly stated.

How are these people now getting off? 

Pascoe agreed to cut deals with the Quinns – a huge gamble – because he believed it would help him land higher value targets as the investigation progressed.

“We’re going to find out a lot next month,” Pascoe told Mullen in court last December, referring to testimony the elder Quinn was to provide a statewide grand jury in January.

Pascoe also indicated he planned on charging the elder Quinn with perjury and obstruction of justice if he failed to answer truthfully when called to testify before the statewide grand jury.

The status of those proceedings would now appear to be very much in the air …

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