Embattled political consultant Richard Quinn is asking the South Carolina Supreme Court to block special prosecutor David Pascoe from investigating him in connection with the Statehouse corruption probe and return a trove of documents seized during a March raid on his Columbia offices.
Quinn’s attorney Deborah Barbier has petitioned the high court to intervene and disqualify Pascoe, alleging that he and his investigators intruded on attorney-client privilege and violated the consultant’s rights when State Law Enforcement Division agents seized thousands of emails and other documents from the offices of Richard Quinn & Associates. In addition to sidelining Pascoe, they want Quinn’s documents returned and a new special prosecutor appointed to handle the investigation.
Quinn has not been charged with a crime but he has emerged as a key figure and potential target in the corruption probe. The investigation has so far ensnared four lawmakers, including his son, Republican Rep. Rick Quinn of Lexington.
Pascoe has filed a written response disputing Quinn’s claims and asking the high court to caution the consultant and Barbier against “future frivolous proceedings.” He urged the Supreme Court to deny Quinn’s requests, stating: “The only purpose of these petitions is delay.”
Richard Quinn has been a political kingmaker in South Carolina for decades. He and his son have accused Pascoe, a Democrat, of having a political bias in the investigation — a claim Pascoe has denied. The younger Quinn, who has been suspended from office, is accused of failing to report more than $4.5 million paid to companies operated by him and his father, and using his position as House majority leader to steer $270,000 in House Republican Caucus funds to family businesses.
Richard Quinn’s filings with the Supreme Court mirror earlier arguments employed during a seven-hour May hearing aimed at getting Pascoe tossed from the case and the seized documents shielded from review by investigators. Then, as now, Quinn attorneys argued that investigators failed to follow proper search procedures during the raid and that the team might have seen legally privileged documents prepared in the Quinns’ defense.
Circuit Court Judge Knox McMahon rejected those arguments in a June ruling that kept Pascoe on the case and allowed prosecutors to proceed with combing through hundreds of records seized from Quinn’s firm. The judge said he saw no evidence that rights had been violated or that the “integrity of the judicial system has been compromised.” A month later, McMahon turned down a request from the Quinns to reconsider his decision.
Barbier has asked the Supreme Court to overturn McMahon’s ruling, arguing that his decisions raise “paramount questions” about the duty of prosecutors and investigators to safeguard constitutional rights regarding confidential communications between attorneys and their clients. She asked the high court to expedite a ruling to protect Quinn against an ongoing intrusion of his rights.
Pascoe countered that Barbier’s arguments hold no merit, as the lower court already ruled. He alleged that her petitions were simply a delay tactic, akin to “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre” to stop a show.
Reach Glenn Smith at 843-937-5556. Follow him on Twitter @glennsmith5.