BEAUFORT (AP) A former South Carolina lawmaker avoided prison Feb. 12 when a judge sentenced him to two years on probation for his guilty plea to a misdemeanor corruption charge.
Former state Rep. Rick Quinn Jr. was also fined $1,000 and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service during a brief hearing. He had pleaded guilty to a single charge of misconduct in office Dec. 13. Quinn, a former House majority leader, became the third Republican lawmaker convicted as part of a wide-ranging investigation into Statehouse corruption.
Quinn, 52, of Lexington had faced up to a year in prison and prosecutors said he deserved time behind bars. Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen disagreed and indicated Quinn had already paid a high price for his crime.
“Mr. Quinn has no criminal record, his political career is over, he’s been disgraced and his family business has been destroyed,” Mullen said.
The two other lawmakers who pleaded guilty in the corruption investigation also received probation.
Solicitor David Pascoe had accused Quinn of breaking the law by taking $4 million in unreported money from lobbyists and doing their bidding on behalf of his father’s political consulting firm.
Quinn denied taking money for political favors. He said his only crime was failing to disclose a single lobbying firm that had made payments to his father’s business.
“I have never used my office for personal gain,” Quinn told reporters outside the Beaufort County courthouse.
As part of his plea deal last year, Quinn resigned from office after 21 years. He served as House majority leader from 1999 to 2004.
In exchange for Quinn’s guilty plea, Pascoe dropped corruption charges against Quinn’s Republican consultant father, Richard Quinn Sr. The elder Quinn agreed to cooperate with authorities and testify before a grand jury empaneled that has so far indicted seven people in the corruption investigation. His high-profile clients have included Gov. Henry McMaster, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Pascoe said he disagreed with the judge’s decision against prison time for Quinn. The prosecutor said he also may appeal the judge’s handling of the plea, which he said didn’t involve a proper admission of guilty by the ex-lawmaker.
“One might think at least we got one more legislator out of there who had his own interest in mind instead of the public’s interest,” Pascoe told reporters after the hearing.
The judge cut Pascoe off several times during the sentencing hearing when he tried to raise an objection to Quinn’s plea. She also noted that if the prosecutor wanted a stiffer sentence, he could have taken Quinn’s case to trial.
“If Rick Quinn was the worst of the worst, why did you allow him to plead … to one very limited admission?” Mullen said.
Quinn called Pascoe a “political adversary” who spent more than three years pursuing charges against Quinn and his father as an act of partisan revenge. Pascoe ran for a solicitor as a Democrat. He denied any political motives behind his investigation.
Quinn is the third GOP lawmaker to decide to plead guilty in the investigation. Former House Majority Leader Jim Merrill and former House Speaker Bobby Harrell both were sentenced to probation.
Quinn said he wanted to fight the charges and clear his name, but pleaded guilty to spare his father from prosecution and the rest of his family from further hardship.
“I’m sure I won’t run for office again,” Quinn said. “But I owe it to my constituents to let them know how I conducted myself. … I’ve got to figure out a way to repair my name.”