A statewide grand jury is expected to issue criminal indictments against suspended South Carolina fifth circuit solicitor Dan Johnson within days, sources familiar with the situation tell this news site.
Johnson was indicted earlier this week on multiple federal fraud charges. Per South Carolina statute, he was automatically suspended from office pending the resolution of the federal charges against him. In the aftermath of his suspension, S.C. governor Henry McMaster appointed deputy attorney general Heather Weiss to serve as interim solicitor for the fifth circuit.
Johnson was already a lame duck, having been decisively defeated in the Democratic primary for this seat by Columbia, S.C. attorney Byron Gipson back in June. Gipson is facing petition candidate John Meadors in the November election for this office, which handles criminal prosecutions in Richland and Kershaw counties.
The winner of that election will take office in January … irrespective of what happens to Johnson.
Three weeks ago, this news outlet exclusively reported on a state grand jury investigation into Johnson, a 47-year-old native of Blythewood, S.C. who has served as fifth circuit solicitor since 2011 (a tenure marred by scandal).
As we reported last month, “grand jurors are reportedly considering whether to indict the scandal-scarred solicitor in connection with multiple instances of alleged workplace sexual harassment.”
Sources close to the case tell us these harassment charges – which they say rise to the level of misconduct in office – remain very much a part of the ongoing investigation. However, we are reliably informed that the first round of rumored state-level indictments against Johnson is to be based on detailed financial information assembled by months ago by influential Democratic attorney (and S.C. Senate candidate) Dick Harpootlian.
Back in February, Harpootlian’s group – Public Access to Public Records (PAPR) – released voluminous records documenting financial irregularities within the solicitor’s office, news of which was exclusively reported by this outlet.
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These documents detailed taxpayer-funded expenditures on swanky parties, cab and Uber rides, club and gym memberships and hotel rooms all over the world.
The grand jury is continuing to investigate whether Johnson leveraged the power of his office – including hiring, firing and decisions related to pay and promotions – to alternately reward or punish subordinates based on their willingness to gratify him sexually. Several women have reportedly been victimized by Johnson, and one of them – Debra Russell – told her story to this news site earlier this year.
Nonetheless, possible criminal indictments related to these allegations are reportedly not coming in the first batch of state-level charges.
The federal case against Johnson will be managed by the office of U.S. attorney Sherri Lydon. It is not immediately clear who will handle the state prosecution, although we believe the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson is the most likely option.
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