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#ProbeGate Court Drama: Was Reporter Tipped Off?

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This week yielded some breaking news in connection with #ProbeGate – an ongoing investigation into corruption in South Carolina state government that continues to produce more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie mystery.

The official narrative – as we noted in our coverage yesterday – is that ever-industrious reporter John Monk of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper just happened to be in a Richland County courthouse earlier this week when an unscheduled hearing involving one of the Palmetto State’s most influential politicos was held.

“A miracle,” one source close to the case told us.

The result of Monk’s “miraculous” timing?  An exclusive scoop that veteran “Republican” strategist Richard Quinn had been compelled by a judge to testify later this month before a statewide grand jury.

That’s big news because Quinn’s testimony has been touted by S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe for months as a major development in this long and winding case … which has already felled a trio of tremendously powerful state legislators.

Many believe the veteran consultant – who built a political empire of unrivaled influence over the past three decades – is key to bringing cases against some of the well-heeled corporate and political clients he once served.

In fact, Quinn’s grand jury testimony was the stated reason the special prosecutor decided to enter into a controversial plea deal with Quinn and his son, former state representative Rick Quinn back in December.

More on that deal in a moment …

First, let’s get back to this week’s breaking news …

The “back story” behind Monk’s big scoop?  That the veteran reporter – who was ostensibly at the courthouse working on another story – was tipped off by Pascoe’s office about the hearing in advance.

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We didn’t even bother trying to get an on-the-record comment from Monk regarding this allegation.  Why would we?  No reporter is ever going to discuss their sources, and to Monk’s credit we have heard from several of our confidential sources that he was indeed working on a story at the court house this week involving scandal-scarred S.C. fifth circuit solicitor Dan Johnson (whose office is in the building).

Specifically, Monk is said to be chasing down one of the same leads we are chasing down related to Johnson’s alleged harassment of former female subordinates in his office – something this news site first reported on way back in 2013.

Still, that doesn’t preclude the possibility that Monk got a tip … or that the tip came from Pascoe, who has been repeatedly accused by the Quinns’ attorneys of leaking information regarding this case to members of the media.

As for the substance of the hearing, we’re also told there was some “media mischaracterization” of what transpired in the courtroom.

Specifically, we’re told the elder Quinn has never tried to get out of testifying … that he has, as his attorney said in court this week, repeatedly made it clear he was willing to testify truthfully before the grand jury per the terms of the December 2013 plea deal.

Quinn’s only insistence?  That he not be compelled to live up to his end of the bargain before the charges brought against him last fall were formally dropped.

That finally happened on Monday of this week, less than 24 hours before the court hearing … but four months after Pascoe first announced that he was dismissing them.

Reached for comment earlier Thursday, Quinn referred all inquiries to his attorney – Deborah Barbier.  We tried on several occasions to reach Barbier, but received no response from her.

Ultimately, the circumstances surrounding this week’s hearing don’t matter all that much … what matters is what happens when Quinn testifies.

What questions is he asked?  Who are the subjects of those inquiries?  What answers does he provide?  And what new directions does this investigation take as a result of those answers?

If Pascoe tipped off Monk in an effort to get a front-page story … mission accomplished.

But once again, at some point he’s going to have to deliver the goods.

“It’s put up or shut up time for the solicitor,” we wrote last month.  “If Pascoe wishes to retain his credibility he cannot allow this investigation to finish with a whimper – especially not after he raised the stakes so dramatically.”

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