Hearing set on request to remove South Carolina Statehouse corruption probe prosecutor | News

COLUMBIA — A judge is ready to announce his decision in a request to remove the Statehouse corruption probe prosecutor from the investigation of South Carolina’s most influential political consultant, Richard Quinn, and his son, Rick, a state lawmaker from Lexington.

A hearing before Judge Knox McMahon is scheduled for Friday morning in Columbia, according to two sources who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to release the information. The clerk for the State Grand Jury, which has jurisdiction over Statehouse investigation, said Wednesday that he had no announcement about a hearing.

Lawyers for the Quinns asked McMahon last month to remove 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe because investigators with the State Law Enforcement Division did not properly seize documents and computers from the office Richard Quinn & Associates.

Attorneys argued during the daylong hearing that the state agents failed to protect documents that could not be reviewed in the case because they were covered under attorney-client privilege. The Quinns’ lawyers also questioned if the seized documents were secured so prosecutors could not look at them until McMahon handed down his decision. 

Pascoe says he has not examined the files seized from Richard Quinn & Associates in March and that he is having a fellow solicitor, Kevin Brackett from the 16th circuit, review them to remove any privileged documents. 

Among the items SLED agents seized were: financial, bank, tax and payroll records for Richard Quinn & Associates; tax returns for Richard Quinn and his wife; financial records for property and publishing firms incorporated by Richard Quinn; and records from several of Richard Quinn clients — energy giant SCANA, insurer BlueCross Blue Shield of South Carolina, the State Ports Authority and University of South Carolina.

Agents also nabbed tax and bank documents for the Conservative Leadership Project, a political group run by Richard Quinn that sponsored a series of 2016 presidential candidate forums hosted by state Attorney General Alan Wilson, a client of Richard Quinn & Associates firm. The raid of the office just blocks from the Statehouse included financial and tax records for a political direct-mail company run by Rick Quinn.

Rick Quinn has been charged with two counts of misconduct in office for, among other things, accusations that he failed to report $4.5 million from some of South Carolina’s largest corporations and state agencies that hired his father’s firm, Richard Quinn & Associates, since 2010. He also is accused of lobbying other lawmakers on behalf of his father’s clients. Rick Quinn, who is free on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond, has denied any wrong-doing. 

Richard Quinn — whose clients have included Gov. Henry McMaster and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham — has not been charged.

Wilson recused himself from overseeing the Statehouse investigation in 2014 because of unspecified conflicts of interest. The probe has netted convictions and indictments of four lawmakers, notably former House Speak Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston. Three Republican legislators remain suspended after their indictments in the probe — Quinn, Rep. Jim Merrrill of Charleston and Sen. John Courson of Columbia.